Frank Ntilikina

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Peter Vecsey tweets about LeBron James-Enes Kanter dustup using asterisked n-word

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After the run-in between LeBron James, Enes Kanter and Frank Ntilikina during last night’s Cavaliers-Knicks game, longtime NBA reporter Peter Vecsey tweeted:

For the uninitiated, Vecsey was nearly quoting The Notorious B.I.G., who rapped “Picture me being scared of a n—- that breathe the same air as me.” That context certainly helps, but it’s still a rather uncomfortable tweet.

Do the asterisks help? Yes. But if you count the number, it alludes to a word that ends in “er” – not the one that ends in “a”, which Biggie used.

Amid criticism, Vecsey defended himself:

Ta-Nehisi Coates recently spoke about why white people shouldn’t use the n-word:

I generally agree with that, and I’d urge Vecsey to consider it. But I also believe in the principle of freedom of speech, and if after introspection (or even without it), Vecsey stands by his words, that’s his prerogative.

Also, yes, Kanter has stood up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But LeBron called American President Donald Trump a “bum.” Kanter didn’t have a monopoly on political bravery in that stare-down.

Cleveland wakes up for one quarter, that’s enough for comeback win in New York

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Madison Square Garden was rocking — something all too rare in recent years. Monday night against the hated Cavaliers, through three quarters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter each had 20 points, the Knicks defense had forced 12 steals, Knicks fans were into it and chanting “Ky-rie Ir-ving” at LeBron James, then the crowd went over the top when Kanter and Frank Ntilikina stood up to LeBron.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were napping. All season long against opponents they don’t perceive as a threat they have coasted, and clearly the Knicks didn’t scare the Cavaliers at all. New York led by 23 at one point in the third and it was a 15-point point Knicks lead.

Then the fourth quarter started.

Cleveland put up 43 points on 26 shots, Kyle Korver got red-hot and hit five threes on his way to 19 points in the frame, LeBron had eight assists, the Cavaliers had seven offensive rebounds and three blocks. The Cavaliers defended like they cared, battled back to tie the game.

Then LeBron did this to Porzingis.

That put the Cavaliers up for good. What would have been an ugly loss for Cleveland and a confirmation win for the Knicks turned into a reminder of the status quo in the East as Cleveland held on to win 104-101.

The win pulls the Cavaliers back up to .500 on the season at 7-7, and while they still have some problems to address — and key guys to get healthy, Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson — this team can find a gear nobody else in the East can reach. (Boston may like to dispute that, there’s a long season to see if that’s true.)

The Knicks fall to 7-6 on a night their young star Kristaps Porzingis was off, finishing the night with 20 points on 21 shots. The Knicks struggled to defend Kyle Korver and his off-the-ball movement in the fourth, and once a couple of shots fell (he started the game 0-of-4) he got hot as only the great shooters can.

This also exposed the need for the Knicks to get — or develop in Ntilikina — a shot creator on the perimeter. When the Cavaliers started to care on defense, they made it rough for Porzingis to get the ball and start the offense, he needs another playmaker on the roster and they don’t have that yet.

It was a learning experience for the Knicks — they are going to have a lot of rough ones of these in the coming year. This is a team on the rise, but a young team that is going to lose some games they should have won. It’s the way of the league, what matters is what they do out of it.

LeBron James runs into Frank Ntilikina, jaws with Enes Kanter

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Knicks fans were booing LeBron James from the opening tip Monday night. Which was silly. LeBron’s comments about the Knicks passing on Dennis Smith Jr. in the draft were an obvious shot at Phil Jackson — and taking shots at Jackson is a favorite past time of Knicks fans. But some tried to spin it as a dig at Frank Ntilikina, the guy Jackson drafted in front of Smith, and Enes Kanter came to his teammate’s defense off the court. Even though it was clear to every thinking person before, LeBron clarified his shot was at Jackson.

Monday night, Kanter came to Ntilikina’s defense when LeBron, after a dunk, didn’t make a move to step around Ntilikina and ran into the rookie. LeBron and Kanter jawed, LeBron pushed Kanter off him, and they both got technicals for their trouble.

That exchange lit a fire under the crowd in Madison Square Garden, who got fully into the game and let LeBron really hear it then.

The Cavaliers scored just 13 points in the second quarter, to the Knicks’ 29, and it gave New York a healthy lead it carried into the fourth quarter.

LeBron James clarifies for Enes Kanter ‘who always got something to say:’ Shot at Phil Jackson, not Frank Ntilikina

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LeBron James said the Knicks should have drafted Dennis Smith Jr. No. 8 last year. Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter took offense on behalf of Frank Ntilikina, whom New York actually drafted No. 8. (Smith fell to the Mavericks at No. 9.)

LeBron said he intended to disrespect only Phil Jackson, the former Knicks president who feuded with LeBron and drafted Ntilikina.

LeBron, via Cleveland.com:

I wasn’t throwing shade at Frank at all. People that got their pants in bunches and things of that nature here in New York, they look for any controversy here. And I was basically stating what I saw in Dennis Smith and what I saw from him and him coming out of and watching the draft and thought that he would be a great fit here with Porzingis. And that’s not to saying that Frank won’t be a great fit. I haven’t seen much of him. I knew about him from my best friend who I went to high school with who actually played with him overseas the last couple years.

But it’s the same if – i think Deshaun Watson should be a Brown. Doesn’t mean that Myles Garrett is not going to be a great football player. But Deshaun Watson should have been our quarterback.

It’s the same thing. It’s not you s—ing on the next guy. It’s just that you’re stating what you see. 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, who says – I don’t know what’s wrong with him.

Was LeBron taking a shot at Phil Jackson?

Oh, yeah. It’s definitely a shot at him. That’s for sure.

I know what Dennis Smith is capable of doing, and I knew the Knicks was looking for – have been looking for – a point guard. Am I stating things that’s false? No? This is facts, right? So, I thought they would pick him, and they didn’t. But, like I said, it’s no shade at Frank. I don’t even know the kid. I wasn’t even thinking about the kid when I was talking about Dennis Smith. I was thinking about just the Knicks organization and Phil Jackson at the time and Dennis Smith’s talent and Porzingis, and that’s all I was thinking about.

I’m just stating facts. That’s all. Have you seen Dennis Smith play? Have you all seen him play? So, get out of here. Y’all tripping here. Why we tripping here? Next question.

Phil was just a small piece of – he was a big piece of it, actually. I don’t have no problem with the Knicks organization. I wasn’t here. So, I don’t know the insights and everything. I’m a fan of the game, as well. It’s great when the Knicks, the Celtics and the Lakers our great in our league, all at the same time. It’s best for our league.

So, LeBron will sign with the Knicks, Celtics or Lakers next summer?

We read far more into LeBron’s comments than any other player. He’s the NBA’s best player and sometimes gets passive-aggressive. That invites deeper dives into his remarks (and memes).

I doubt LeBron intended to diss Ntilikina, but the draft is a zero-sum game. If the Knicks took Smith, they couldn’t have taken Ntilikina. LeBron did implicitly say Ntilikina should have gone lower.

But LeBron is excellent at influencing the news cycle. Look how adeptly he turned the conversation to criticizing Enes Kanter (accurately) , Phil Jackson and the Cleveland Browns about Deshaun Watson vs. Myles Garrett – topics that will generate far more interest than Ntilikina.

Knicks waive Mindaugas Kuzminskas to clear spot for Joakim Noah

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The Knicks didn’t find their desired Mindaugas Kuzminskas trade, so with Joakim Noah returning from his performance-enhancing-drug suspension tonight, something had to give.

New York opened a roster spot by waiving Kuzminskas.

Knicks:

The Knicks might have originally expected to waive Jarrett Jack, who’s on an unguaranteed contract. But they’re 7-2 since making him starting point guard.

With Jack thriving, rookie Frank Ntilikina showing promise and Ron Baker, um, signed, Ramon Sessions appeared to be another candidate to be waived. The 31-year-old hasn’t played well in at least a couple years, and he’s on just a one-year minimum contract.

Alas, Kuzminskas departs.

Though he was just a rookie last year, the Lithuanian is already 28. His $3,025,035 salary lowered his trade value and might cause him to clear waivers.

Still, he plays an energetic all-around game that would really shine if he shoots better. It’s quite common for players from Europe to need a season to adjust to NBA 3-point distance.

I wouldn’t be surprised if an NBA team takes a flier on Kuzminskas, with a waiver claim or signing him once he clears. I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to Europe, either.