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.