- Chris Graythen/Getty
- LeBron James said the New York Knicks “passed on a really good” player in Dennis Smith Jr.
- The Knicks chose Frank Ntilikina one spot ahead of Smith in the 2017 draft.
- Several Knicks players defended Ntilikina, with center Enes Kanter saying he couldn’t let James “disrespect” Ntilkina and the team like that.
- James responded on Monday, saying people got their “pants in bunches” and saying it was a shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson, not Ntilikina.
The New York Knicks and LeBron James continued a war of words on Monday after James criticized the Knicks’ decisions during the NBA Draft.
On Saturday, James praised Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., the ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, saying the Knicks “passed on a really good one.” The Knicks had the eighth pick in the draft and took point guard Frank Ntilikina.
James said Smith “should be a Knick.”
The following day, several Knicks players came to the defense of the 19-year-old Ntilikina, none stronger than center Enes Kanter.
“This is my rookie,” Kanter said. “This is my team. This is my organization. I cannot just let him disrespect him like that.”
“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if it’s LeBron or whoever it is, I cannot just let him disrespect him like that because the coaches, the GMs, the president, this organization knows what they’re doing. So that’s why I was kind of pissed that he said that, because, I mean, come on, man. That’s a rookie. You cannot just say anything like that about him.”
Kristaps Porzingis also defended Ntilikina, saying: “I don’t know why [James] made those comments. But all I can say is we love Frank. We’re happy with him. He’s doing a great job. He’s playing great and he’s doing what he’s supposed to. I would not change Frank for anybody. “
On Monday, prior to the Knicks-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup, James took offense to criticisms directed his way.
“I wasn’t throwing shade at Frank at all,” James said. “For people that got their pants in bunches and that nature here in New York. They look for any controversy here.”
James continued, saying his praise for Smith was not a shot at Ntilkina, comparing it to the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation.
“That’s not saying that Frank won’t be a great fit. I haven’t watched much of him,” James said, adding, “I mean, I think DeShaun Watson should be a Brown. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Myles Garrett isn’t going to be a great football player.” James said the Knicks have been looking for point guards, and he felt Smith would help them.
He then took a jab at Kanter, saying: “That’s all that is, for clarification of people who just live in the box, and for Enes Kanter who always got something to say … I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”
James did clarify that his comments were meant as a shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson (who selected Ntilikina). James has expressed his dislike for Jackson before after Jackson referred to James and his business associates as a “posse” last season.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a shot at [Jackson]. That’s for sure … I’m not a fan of Phil Jackson. I think you guys already know that. Let’s not, that’s the past though.”
The New York Knicks have gotten off to a surprising start this season, at 7-5, while the Cavaliers have struggled out of the gates at 6-7. James has historically played well at Madison Square Garden, and both teams should be ready for Monday’s game after the back-and-forth.