Phil Jackson tried to make Dennis Smith Jr. eat octopus at pre-draft dinner

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

After Dennis Smith Jr.‘s impressive performance at Summer League, there are a lot of fans questioning why their GM didn’t take him and his known scoring ability over whoever their team took higher. (Which is unfair, it’s impossible to truly judge a draft until a couple of years in, and especially not after the glorified pickup games of Summer League.)

At the top of the list of the frustrated are Knicks fans. Phil Jackson took European point guard Frank Ntilikina at eight — he didn’t play in Summer League due to a sore knee — just one spot ahead of Smith. Why? Jackson liked Ntilikina from the start, but also maybe because he likes octopus.

Smith talked about his workout and meetings with the Knicks and Jackson, which included a dinner out, speaking to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“We went out to some restaurant and they had me eat some octopus, like an actual octopus tentacle,” Smith Jr. told the Daily News. “First time ever. I wasn’t going to try it, honestly. They kind of put the pressure on me to do it.”

Because if you eat octopus, you’re good at the triangle? It’s Phil Jackson, who knows what the motivation was.

I will say, marinated and grilled octopus is awesome. If done right.

It is far too early to judge Ntilikina vs. Smith — the question isn’t even who will be better as a rookie, it’s who will be better three years from now? How will they grow and adapt to the speed, athleticism, and demands of the NBA game? How will they handle the mental demands of the NBA? It takes time to get a sense of all that. But I’m not sure if eating octopus is much of a way to judge anything.

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