The New York Knicks have stuck up for their 2017 No. 8 overall NBA Draft pick Frank Ntilikina, who was recently dissed by LeBron James.
King James criticized the Knicks on Saturday for selecting Ntilikina in the Draft instead of Mavs’ rookie Dennis Smith Jr., who Dallas snapped up at No. 9.
“The Knicks passed on a really good one, and Dallas got the diamond in the rough,” James said to reporters of Smith. “He should be a Knick. Dallas is definitely, I know they’re excited that he didn’t go there.”
Knicks’ 7-3 superstar Kristaps Porzingis, the NBA’s second leading scorer, lashed out at James’ negative remarks about his rookie teammate.
“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 said to reporters. “He’s doing a great job. He’s playing great, and he’s doing what he’s supposed to. And I would not change Frank for anybody. Simple.”
Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek also defended Ntilikina.
“They’re both great young players,” Hornacek said of Ntilikina and Smith. “We have Frank, and Frank has done a great job for us, his abilities, the way he’s grown from day one and the things that he’s worked on, we expect him to be a great player also.”
The bad blood between the teams extended into Monday’s Cavs-Knicks game at the Garden as Ntilikina and James got into a shoving match in the first quarter, and New York center Enes Kanter and King James then jawed face to face with each getting a technical.
As James was booed loudly by the New York crowd every time he touched the ball, the Knicks led by as much as 23 in the third quarter before the Cavs rallied back for a 104-101 win.
A college star at NC State, the 6-3 Smith led the team in scoring and assists last season, averaging 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds when he was named the ACC Freshman of the Year.
The 6-6 Ntilikina, a French native, averaged 5.4 points and 1.5 assists last season for Strasbourg in the France Pro A League.
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