Sports

Knicks back Frank Ntilikina as rookie brushes off LeBron James' draft criticism

Knicks back Frank Ntilikina as rookie brushes off LeBron James' draft criticism

Speaking to reporters at Madison Square Garden two days after he said NY goofed by not drafting Dennis Smith Jr., who plays for the Mavericks, James confirmed what many initially suspected: His comments were targeted at former Knicks president Phil Jackson, not Ntilikina.

"Knicks passed on a really good one", James said after the Cavaliers' 111-104 win at American Airlines Center, per the Dallas Morning News' Brad Townsend. He should be a Knick. Fans can be heard saying hello to former Knick J.R. Smith as the team makes their way to the platform.

"I mean, I don't know why he made those comments, but all I can say is we love Frank, we're happy with him", Kristaps Porzingis told reporters after the Knicks' practice on Sunday.

The Knicks, meanwhile, opted for French floor general Frank Ntilikina over Smith at No. 8 overall. Smith went to the Mavs one selection later. Several reasons. On one hand, James is close with Smith, and has been a mentor to the rookie going back several years.

LeBron is right. That doesn't mean he wasn't savoring a shot at Jackson.

The selection of Ntilikina was one of Jackson's last official acts as the Knicks president; the Zen Master was sacked days later.

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Apart from a well-played game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 11, the attention that Smith is getting may also have been caused by his record-breaking performance in his first 10 games as a pro basketball player.

The Knicks were quick to defend their teammate.

"I had nothing but respect for him as a coach for what he was able to do at the helm", James said last November.

Asked whether he sees himself in a rivalry with Smith, Ntilikina added: "I️ see rivalry with all the point guards in the league".

James said it was his first time riding the subway in NY.

The Knicks are an equally-surprising 7-2 in that same span.


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