Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James isn’t beyond giving his endorsement to young players in the NBA, and the latest to receive such platitudes with Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. After Saturday’s win against Dallas, James called Smith a “diamond in the rough” and said he “should be Knick” as well. The Knicks, however, drafted Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 pick in the 2017 Draft as Smith Jr. went one pick later to Dallas.
James’ comments didn’t sit well with some of the Knicks’ current players, including star forward Kristaps Porzingis and center Enes Kanter. At Monday’s shootaround before tonight’s game against the Knicks (7:30 ET, NBA League Pass), James clarified his statements about Smith Jr., Ntilikina and admitted that much of what he said was directed at former Knicks president Phil Jackson:
“I wasn’t throwing shade at Frank at all, for people that got their pants in bunches and things of that nature here in New York, that look for any controversy here,” James said before the Cavaliers held a shootaround at the Garden. “I was basically stating what I saw in Dennis Smith and what I saw from him coming out and watching the draft. I thought that he would be a great fit here with [Kristaps] Porzingis. That’s not saying Frank won’t be a great fit. I haven’t seen much of him.”
James first made headlines with his opinion Saturday night after facing the Mavericks and Smith, who scored 21 points.
On Monday, he downplayed the comment but not before he was asked if it should be taken as a shot at Jackson.
“It’s definitely a shot at him, that’s for sure,” James said.
“I wasn’t even thinking about [Ntilikina] when I was talking about Dennis Smith. I was talking about just the Knicks organization and Phil Jackson at the time and Dennis Smith’s talent and Porzingis. That’s all I was thinking about.”
LeBron also offered up a retort for Kanter as well …
And before James was done, there was one last shot at Enes Kanter, who immediately backed up Ntilikina on social media, tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got… Thanks!!!”
“… All that is for clarification for people who just live in the box and for Enes Kanter, who always got something to say,” James said. “He says – I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”