LeBron James created a bit of a stir over the past few days when he said promising Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. was drafted by the wrong team.


The New York Knicks decided to pass on Smith with what ended up being the final draft pick of Jackson’s tenure as New York’s team president, selecting French point guard Frank Ntilikina eighth overall, one pick before Dallas took Smith.

“The Knicks passed on a really good one, and Dallas got the diamond in the rough,” James said after his Cleveland Cavaliers’ 111-104 win Saturday night over the Mavericks. “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 that he didn’t go there.”

LeBron knew exactly what would happen, of course, because LeBron is savvy enough to know there’s nothing guaranteed to fire up the basketball media take machine like criticizing the Knicks. At best, he was going out of his way to point out how good Smith has been, at worst, he was tweaking Phil Jackson, something Knicks Twitter spent the past few years (rightly) doing as well.

LeBron, of course, has special motivation to go in on Jackson, given Phil’s “posse” comments with regards to LeBron’s camp. And Phil Jackson is gone now, anyway, before he could do something stupid like trade Kristaps Porzingis.

Except, of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, some Knicks players (and a decent helping of New York media/#KnicksTwitter) decided to read into LeBron’s quote a slight to the player the Knicks did pick in lieu of Smith, French guard Frank Ntilikina.

LeBron even clarified his comments pregame:

And yet, that still wasn’t enough, because heaven forbid anyone dare take a shot at the Knicks, unless you’re a New York writer who spends all your time complaining about the Knicks.

LeBron complimenting Dennis Smith Jr. in such direct terms is actually refreshing; every year, we hear from plenty of media who point out a player went too low in the draft. By default, that means you’re saying another player selected ahead of Good Player X shouldn’t have been taken there, but that doesn’t stop anyone from doing it in a vacuum. LeBron is simply stating his point clearly, and it’s a good one!

Smith and Ntilikina are both just 19 (Smith turns 20 in a few weeks), yet Smith is outpacing him in just about every meaningful statistical category, traditional and otherwise, while playing far more minutes and shouldering a much bigger load.

Still, we had to watch as Kanter and Ntilikina got into it with LeBron on the court, resulting in the Madison Square Garden crowd giving the French rookie a standing ovation.

And hey, if the Knicks players want to get all bent out of shape about a perceived slight, more power to them. Perhaps they should have been more focused on not blowing a 23-point lead.

But, perhaps worst of all, were the various Twitter takes from the endless supply of New York media members who, because media is inherently New York-centric, make up way too much of the sports Twitter world.

For example, here’s a very reasonable point from a few weeks ago regarding the damage Phil Jackson wasn’t allowed to do:

Yes, indeed! Phil was terrible. Which makes tweets like this one from last night all the more mystifying:

Or this, which was even worse, and indeed so bad it almost had to be tongue-in-cheek, and I confess I don’t know Tommy well enough to confirm if it was or if it wasn’t, but plenty of people likely appreciated it unironically:

And then there’s this:

And at a certain point, we must ask ourselves: why the hell should anyone give a damn about the Knicks? Their last contending team, and also their last team to win more than one playoff series, came all the way back in 1999-2000. Babies born that season are seniors in high school now. Opposing rookies still get asked what it means to play in the Garden, as though it means anything anymore.

That’s despite the most famous MSG basketball moment since 1990 is probably Reggie Miller stuck it to Spike Lee. It’s hosting the Big Ten Tournament this year, though! Such a rich Big Ten tradition in New York City. The inevitable opening round Nebraska-Iowa matchup will really have the boroughs buzzing.

The Knicks suck. They have sucked for a very long time, and they’ll likely suck into at least the near future, despite boasting a legitimate stud player in Kristaps Porzingis, who while awesome, is likely going to be wasted playing for a franchise that’s only finished above .500 three times since 2001. (Once they finished 42-40. Another was a lockout season.) The NBA, meanwhile, has flourished over that time span, becoming one of the strongest and most popular leagues in the world, all without the Knicks being relevant in the slightest.

The last player for a New York team to hit a meaningful postseason shot in the Garden was Gerry McNamara.

The NBA, and basketball as a whole, does not need the Knicks to be good. And that’s a good thing, because if it did, we’d be watching a lot of hockey every winter. If they were the New Orleans Knicks, we’d never hear a word about them, and everyone would be better off for it.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.