LeBron James had high praise for an opposing rookie and some more shots for former New York Knicks president Phil Jackson on Saturday.
After narrowly evading defeat against the last-place Dallas Mavericks, LeBron in one statement both praised Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. while trashing the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ next opponent—he’s a multitasker.
“The Knicks passed on a really good one,” James said of Smith, who’d just dropped 21 points on 50 percent shooting to go with five boards, seven assists, two steals, and two blocks. “Dallas got the diamond in the rough. He should be a Knick. That’s going to make some headlines, but he should be a Knick. Dallas is definitely—I know they’re excited he didn’t go there.
“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism. He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”
The Knicks selected point guard Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Smith went to the Mavs one selection later.
After several Knicks took exception to LeBron’s comments …
KP on LeBron: ‘I don’t know why he said that…I wouldn’t trade Frank for anybody ‘
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) November 12, 2017
We love what we got…
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) November 12, 2017
… the four-time MVP clarified that he was really just taking some more shots at Jackson, whom the Knicks fired days after the 2017 draft.
“It’s definitely a shot at him, that’s for sure,” LeBron said.
Last year, LeBron took offense to Jackson’s referring to the Cavs star’s inner circle as his “posse.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about [Ntilikina] when I was talking about Dennis Smith,” LeBron continued. “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.”
He added: “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.”