Knicks rookies reveal thoughts on what it means to face LeBron

Knicks rookies reveal thoughts on what it means to face LeBron

The standard of greatness. A childhood idol. A runaway freight train. The best player in the world. That is what awaits four Knicks rookies Monday when LeBron James visits for the final Garden game of the season.

The rookies — Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks — all have varying degrees of awe, excitement or so-what focus for James, who is having another MVP-caliber season which is hardly a surprise when you are a standard of greatness or the object of idolization.

“I just think about how physically dominant he is when he’s driving to the hole. He’s like a freight train,” Hicks said.

“He’s been the standard for greatness as a basketball player since my childhood, the standard for my generation,” Kornet said. “He’s kind of been the face of the league, the face of basketball for as long as I can remember.”

Still, no autograph requests during timeouts or pregame warm-ups. Hey, opposing Olympians did that for the original Dream Team.

James is having another ridiculous season, keeping the Cavaliers in line for home court in the first round of the playoffs at least as he aims for an eighth straight trip to the Finals. He is averaging 27.7 points, his best since 2009-10. He also averages career bests in assists (9.2) and rebounds (8.7). Yeah, try convincing sane and rational folks he’s not the MVP.

“Everybody will say he’s the best player in the world,” Dotson said. “He’s been in the league 15 years, that’s over half my life. The player he has become is unbelievable. Big, strong, physical. Everybody knows his stature.”

Only Ntilikina has faced James on an NBA court and that was a memorable moment, one of the highlights of a Knicks season gone so horribly wrong (again). Ntilikina — in the wake of James’ anti-Phil Jackson proclamation that the Knicks should have drafted Dennis Smith Jr. instead — shoved King James when the living legend got in his way during the Cavs’ 104-101 Garden victory Nov. 13.

“We didn’t play since and I’m just focused on playing the game,” said Ntilikina, who said he has had no contact with James since that night. Enes Kanter, who has missed the past four games with a sore lower back and wrist after taking a hard fall in Philadelphia, also mixed it up with James that night and on Twitter after.

Dotson, however, has been on a court against James. It was at one of James’ camps. Dotson was a college freshman. He was defending James. It went the way you would expect.

“I was guarding him. Or trying to,” Dotson said. “I looked up and he was right by me.”

One veteran, Courtney Lee, knows what the rookies feel. He had a similar attitude his first year toward guys like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson. Wade left an impression.

“Was the first person to score 50 live on me,” Lee said, shaking his head.

So it will be exciting for the young guys Monday.

“It is,” Hicks said, “especially the first time after growing up and watching him. A lot of players feel that especially against players who they watched growing up.”

But don’t make LeBron feel old. You might just tick him off.

“From a game-to-game basis I view it the same way as any game,” Kornet said. “But taking a step back from when I was a kid, like when I was eight or nine years old that was when he first came into the league, I was a huge fan of LeBron. From that, it definitely is special but when you’re going to play him, you’re just focused on doing your job. It is the thing I’m really amazed by. The focus is just completely different than you’d think.”

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