LeBron James managed to spark controversy in New York over the weekend. It stemmed from comments he made in Dallas on Saturday night following the Cavaliers’ game against the Mavericks.
James was asked about Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who had 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in the game, and took the opportunity to praise Smith and also toss some shade the way of the Knicks. James said Smith was great and that he “should be a Knick,” referencing New York passing on Smith with the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft and allowing him to fall to Dallas at nine.
Those comments didn’t go over well in the Knicks locker room, as Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter were both quick to come to the defense of their rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, the man taken with that No. 8 pick, and also question why James would even say that. It was a curious comment, considering James has no ties to the Knicks and it was just a random stray shot sent New York’s way. Not to mention, it’s generally not the norm for LeBron to speak ill of another player, especially a rookie.
On Monday, the Cavaliers face the Knicks in New York, and LeBron had some explaining to do at shootaround. When asked about the comment, James insisted he didn’t mean it as anything negative about Ntilikina. Instead, it was a shot meant for former Knicks president Phil Jackson, with whom LeBron has a history.
“I wasn’t throwing shade at Frank at all,” James said. “People that got they pants in bunches, things of that nature in New York. They look for any controversy here. I was basically stating what I saw in Dennis Smith and what I saw of him coming out and watching the draft. I thought he would be a great fit here with Porzingis. That’s not to say Frank won’t be a great fit…it’s the same as me thinking Deshaun Watson should be a Brown. It’s not to say Myles Garrett won’t be a great football player, but Deshaun Watson should’ve been our quarterback. It’s not you sh*tting on the next guy. It’s just you stating what you see. That’s all that is for clarification for people who just live in the box, and for Enes Kanter, who’s always got something to say. He says, I don’t know what’s wrong with him.
“Oh yeah, it was definitely a shot at [Phil Jackson],” James continued. “That’s for sure. … It’s no shade at Frank. I wasn’t even thinking about the kid when I was talking about Dennis Smith. I was just thinking about the Knicks organization and Phil Jackson. And Dennis Smith’s talent and Porzingis.”
There were many that felt this was the case initially, but with Jackson gone, it’s easy to see how this was misconstrued as an attack on their young point guard. Hopefully this will end any fears that LeBron is anti-Frank, but Knicks fans and the organization have to be pleased that Porzingis was so quick to stand up for his rookie point guard and not afraid to question the great LeBron.
As for LeBron’s ongoing mini-feud with Phil Jackson, that certainly isn’t going anywhere, although who knows if Jackson will ever even see those comments.