LeBron Has Bigger Concerns Than The Knicks… Just Not Right Now

Don’t be fooled, LeBron’s shot at the Knicks and Ntilikina was a motivational tactic for the Cavs, writes Moke Hamilton.

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With the Cleveland Cavaliers looking old and slow, LeBron James probably has more important things to worry about than who the New York Knicks drafted this past June, yet here we are.

“The Knicks passed on a really good one, and Dallas got the diamond in the rough,” LeBron said on Saturday night after Smith turned in a 21-point, seven-assist, five-rebound game against his Cavs.

“He should be a Knick,” James said with a smile.

“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.”

For LeBron, the declaration was just the latest example of one of the NBA’s all-time greats manipulating the media and the headlines at another’s expense—this time, it was one of his favorite targets.

After the Cavaliers wrapped up their win in Dallas, they eventually began their trek to, you guessed it, New York.

The Cavs will visit Madison Square Garden for the first time on Monday night. By saying what he said about the Knicks draft, LeBron directly took a shot at Phil Jackson and indirectly at Frank Ntilikina. He knew what would await him in New York City, and he said what he said, anyway.

And here we all, falling for it like dopes.

NBA players don’t typically look at regular season standings as often as fans do. For the most part, record watching doesn’t begin, at the earliest, until Thanksgiving. So in case LeBron isn’t aware, someone should point out to him that the Knicks (7-5) are currently ahead of the Cavs in the standings (6-7). So are the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Miami HEAT, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers.

Get the drift?

Yes, there’s a long way to go, and the odds of the Knicks ending the season better than the Cavaliers seem remote. But LeBron could have easily credited Smith and pointed out that eight teams passed on the talent (Smith was selected ninth overall by the Mavericks), rather than singling out the Knicks for doing so.

That was by design. It was also quite childish.

James’ comment was especially foolish considering the dividends that Ntilikina has returned. It’s obviously early, but already, Ntilikina’s potential as a defensive stopper, aggressive defender and big-time playmaker has been seen in spurts.

Sure, Smith may have the sexier plays and the better numbers, but at 2-12, the Mavericks have the worst record in the entire league.

The better irony, though, is the fact that the Cavaliers are counting on the trio of Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jose Calderon to man the point guard position for them and help the team return to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals. Sure, it might be enough, but one could certainly argue that those prospects would be better with Ntilikina on the roster, if for no other reason than the simple fact that he defends—something the Cavs lead guards don’t do.

Speaking of defense, the Cavaliers enter play on November 12 allowing 113.4 points per game—that’s 28th best, and it ranks them just ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (114.5) and the Phoenix Suns (116.2). The Knicks, on the other hand, allow 105 points per game—a respectable 12th in the NBA.

In all fairness, in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions, the Knicks are yielding 108.8, which makes them a distant 22nd in the league. But I’ll give you one guess as to which team is currently dead last in that same category…

You guessed it, LeBron’s Cavs, who allow 114.6 points per 100 possessions.

In other words, as a simple perusing of the standings would attest, LeBron James probably has bigger things to worry about than who the Knicks drafted and which players they have playing rotation minutes.

By all indications, the Knicks are a rebuilding team which has already shown appreciable upside and hope for the future. But again, we’re talking future—not present.

In other words, although the Cavs can fairly be considered a contender while the Knicks are not, the two teams are also diametric opposites in that the Knicks have brighter days ahead and youth on their side. The Cavs, in short, do not.

One would think that LeBron would have more important things to worry about than the Knicks, but right now, he doesn’t.

That says a lot.

* * * * * *

For as long as he can remember, LeBron has had television cameras on him and microphones in his face. In the digital information age and with social media allowing millions of people to access information almost instantly, he knows that every and anything he says will make news and will be consumed by the entire world.

Anyone that knows LeBron knows that he knows this and often manipulates it to his advantage, so whenever he says something controversial and makes news by using his words, the best thing to do is to try to figure out why he said what he said, and in this situation, it seems quite clear.

A stroll down memory lane quickly reminds us of the Shaquille O’Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers and Chauncey Billups and his Detroit Pistons. For long stretches of time, the teams were considered to be head and shoulders above 90 percent of their competitors. With a nine month season and 90 games before the playoffs, complacency is often difficult to avoid.

As a quick aside, that’s one of the things that made Michael Jordan incredible: his drive was infectious. During his two separate three-peats, he never allowed his teams to become complacent; they played every game to win and played each as if it were their last. Still, that’s another story for another day.

For LeBron, taking a jab at the Knicks and at their prized rookie will cause what would have been just another game at Madison Square Garden to be one that’ll carry playoff-like intensity. The Cavs game will now go from being just another measuring stick game for the Knicks to one that the team will subliminally want to win to prove that they are more than a cute Cinderella story in which the clock will soon strike midnight. Enes Kanter did a fine job of proving that when he came to Ntilikina’s defense on Twitter.

Indeed, LeBron and his Cavs are now guaranteed to walk into an atmosphere where passion, blood pumping and energy awaits. In the NBA, those are often hard to find in November, but all by himself, LeBron just ensured that he and the Knicks will have one.

With one simple quote, LeBron accomplished a great many of his goals, including creating a high-stakes game wherein a win could help to prove to the Cavs that they’re capable of rising to the challenge the same way they did behind LeBron’s 57-point effort against the Wizards back on November 3.

LeBron manipulated the media to his advantage yet again—the Knicks and Frank Ntilikina just happened to be caught in the crossfire.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And to that, we are all witnesses.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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