November 11, the underachieving Cavaliers meet the two win Dallas Mavericks in a pivotal game to determine whether or not the Cavaliers are going to get on track and begin winning like most people thought they would have by this point in the season. The Cavaliers end up winning the close game, but the high flying Dennis Smith Jr. out of NC State captures the eye of Lebron James as he drops 21 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists against the 2016 champs.
After the game, Lebron praises the rookie, Smith Jr., by expressing to the media that the Knicks made a mistake drafting the relatively unheard of Frank Ntilikina, who had been playing professionally in France before being drafted this year in June, and should have gone with the promising Smith Jr. instead.
Dennis Smith Jr. is seen as a dynamic player, who can shoot well, dribble and pass. A player people saw coming out of college who was NBA ready and had star potential. He has also lit up the highlights since his draft day with his incredible jumping ability for a point guard and ferocious dunks, awing NBA fans around the league.
On the other hand, Frank Ntilikina remains that mysterious player who looms in the shadows of the black hole of a franchise commonly referred to as the New York Knicks. Not only does he play for the Knicks, who are not payed attention to by a national audience, but he played overseas before making it to the NBA. Because of this, people do not know his game and nor were they able to watch him like people did with Smith Jr. while he was in college at NC State. This meant on draft night, not many people were sure about the type of player he is.
Ntilikina did not have to waste much time to prove his ability to James as the Cavaliers headed to the Mecca of basketball and squared up against the Porzingis led Knicks in a battle at Madison Square Garden two days after James’ comments. Early in the game, Lebron threw down an easy alley oop. As he tried getting back on defense he ran into Ntilikina who stood his ground against the 2 time champion. After a few bumps, he decided to push the four time MVP out of the way starting a scuffle among the players but proving he is not afraid of what people think of him or of Lebron himself.
Although the Knicks blew a 23 point lead this game, their rookie point guard gave a name for himself showing that he isn’t afraid of criticism or the best in the league. He stood up to thee Lebron James which is something most players, let alone rookies, would never do. Ntlilikina should start getting more media attention with this bold move and perhaps the bigger spotlight will give us more information on this young talent’s game.
With Carmelo and his drama out of the spotlight in New York, the Knicks can look to rebuild with this rookie project as well as their star big man Porzingis. We remember New York fans crying on draft night as they picked Porzingis 2 years ago. Now their unknown draft pick is their star, beloved player and Ntlilkina looks to achieve the same fate.
Just like Ntilikina, Porzingis was relatively unknown. The big man came from Latvia and his game was not seen by Americans. Now Knicks fans idol over him as their unicorn because of his size and shooting ability. After this statement move by Ntilikina, hopefully he will gain more attention by NBA fans, become beloved by Knicks fans just like his teammate Porizngis had to accomplish and blossom into a star New York so desperately needs to become relevant in the league once again. After all, not just anyone stands up to a King.