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LeBron James clarifies that he was insulting Phil Jackson, not Frank Ntilikina

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James said that Dennis Smith Jr. “should be a Knick,” but he wasn’t trying to throw shade at the other rookie point guard that New York drafted.

LeBron James wants to be clear: He was only trying to insult Phil Jackson when he made his comments about Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina on Saturday night.

“It’s definitely a shot at (Jackson),” James said on Monday.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, James said that rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. — who had 21 points and seven assists in the loss — “should be a Knick.” Last June, the Knicks passed on Smith to draft Frank Ntilikina.

“The Knicks passed on a really good one,” James said. “Dallas got the diamond in the rough. He should be a Knick. That’s gonna make some headlines but he should be a Knick. Dallas is definitely excited that he didn’t go there.”

James clarified on Monday that it wasn’t a shot at Ntilikina, only Jackson. He also really likes Smith, although it’s worth noting that James doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to evaluating rookies.

“His athleticism, his playmaking ability, I’ve been knowing the kid since he was 14 years old,” James said of Smith. “I know what he’s capable of. I wasn’t throwing shade at Frank at all. People really got their pants in a bunch, and things of that nature. In New York, you look for any controversy here. I was just stating what I saw in Dennis Smith and what I saw coming out and watching the draft. I thought he would be a great fit here with Porzingis, and that’s not to Frank won’t be a great fit.”

Smith has clearly outplayed Ntilikina through the first month of the season, although Smith was clearly seen as the prospect who was more NBA ready. After James’ comments, Knicks teammates, including Kristaps Porzingis, backed their rookie.

“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," Porzingis told reporters Sunday. "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.”

Jackson was fired in late June, shortly after the draft where he selected Ntilikina.