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Ime Udoka says Enes Kanter isn’t being benched for his comments about China

Enes Kanter has played only 10 minutes this season in his second stint with the Celtics.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

CLEVELAND — Celtics center Enes Kanter has spent much of this season speaking out in support of Tibetan freedom and against the Chinese government, and Sunday he shared a post on his social media channels that suggested his stance may be affecting his playing time.

Kanter shared a flip-book that appeared to be created by a fan that showed Kanter dunking a basketball, and was followed by more calls for freedom in Tibet, Uyghur, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Kanter added his own caption to his posts that said: “Keep limiting me on the court, I will expose you off the court.”


Entering Monday’s game against the Cavaliers, Kanter, who signed a one-year deal with Boston last summer, had played just 10 minutes all season. He scored 5 points in eight minutes of the Celtics’ 98-92 victory Monday with Robert Williams ruled out because of knee soreness.

Kanter declined an interview request from the Globe on Monday, but Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he saw Kanter’s posts and explained to him that his lack of playing time had nothing to do with his social views.

“Our playing time reasoning is strictly based on basketball,” Udoka said. “And I’ve talked to Enes about the reasons he’s not playing as much in some of the things we’re doing, defensively, in areas for him to improve on. My thing is strictly basketball. We’re switching [on screens] a lot and doing some things that probably are not as natural for him and that’s limited his time to some extent. But, at the same time, it’s not just a result of what he’s not doing; it’s that other guys are doing it well.”

After Kanter spoke out against the Chinese government last month, Celtics games were removed from the Chinese streaming service, Tencent. But Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens backed Kanter then, and Udoka made it clear Monday that the team’s stance had not changed. He added he did not view Kanter’s stance as a distraction.


Ime Udoka gives instructions to his team during the second half of Monday's win.Tony Dejak/Associated Press

“Guys have the right to express their views,” Udoka said. “And I’ve said that from Day One: Nothing basketball-related will be based on any of that. Our thing is more, schematically, coverage wise, some of the things we’re doing, and then the players that that we have in front of him.”

Brown still not ready, sits again

Jaylen Brown on Monday missed his fifth consecutive game because of a strained hamstring as the Celtics faced the Cavaliers. Udoka said the forward received medical treatment and completed a light workout Sunday, and it was clear he was not yet ready to return.

“He’ll continue to work and try to progress toward a week or two,” Udoka said.

Forward Al Horford (back) and guard Josh Richardson (knee) both returned Monday after missing Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers.

Bonding experience

The Celtics gathered as a team Sunday for a viewing of “King Richard,” the biographical drama about Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.

“We really don’t have that much time to do things like that, but coach and some of the guys try when we do have time to do things like that together,” Celtics guard Romeo Langford said. “It just helps build more of a bond, because I feel like we have good bonds throughout the whole team, but there’s a lot of new guys and I feel like little things like that just help more out with trust and getting to know each other, which would help us out on the court.”


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.