The Knicks had just suffered another lopsided loss last season when a prominent player agent greeted Derek Fisher outside the visitors' locker room and offered some encouraging words.
"Help is on the way," the agent said.
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The Knicks need help just about everywhere, but team president Phil Jackson will focus on the frontcourt first. Armed with about $26 million when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Jackson will look big before adding shooters.
The Knicks reportedly will meet with All-Stars Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Trail Blazers, who headline the class of big men. But they aren't expected to land either.
Pistons center/power forward Greg Monroe is the most realistic option, with Pacers power forward David West, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez also on the Knicks' radar.
Fisher called it a "priority" that the Knicks find a big man who can "defend and anchor our defense and do some things on the back line." Jordan fits that description and will meet with them later this week, according to reports. He averaged a league-high 15 rebounds and blocked 2.23 shots a game last season.
Both Los Angeles teams and the Mavericks are among the teams interested in signing him. Dallas is said to be the front-runner if Jordan leaves the Clippers.
Monroe averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds last season. He's not the defender or active body Jordan or Lopez is, but he is a good passer. Monroe is considered a great fit for the triangle offense and was linked to the Knicks all last season.
Many league executives expect Monroe, who is not considered a max-salary player, to sign with the Knicks. Jackson and Monroe's agent, David Falk, who also represented Michael Jordan, have a long-standing relationship.
The Knicks would like to maintain flexibility this summer and next, when Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis will be the main free-agent attractions.
"We have quite a bit of money sitting there," Jackson said. "Whether it's completely used or whether we have the opportunity to use it is still unknown. There are no promises in this particular free agency, at least on our end."
Monroe, who is expected to receive interest from the Celtics, Bucks, Lakers and Trail Blazers, told the New Orleans Advocate he wants to play for "a team that's ready to win" and is seeking "a two-year deal plus an option."
West, who opted out of the $12.6 million left on his contract with Indiana, makes sense as a short-term solution. The Knicks' locker room has lacked leadership the past two seasons. West, who will be 35 when next season begins, would be a strong voice and could help mentor first-round pick Kristaps Porzingis.
"I just think having a veteran guy that has a resume of being a guy that can help you defending, being physical, rebounding, I think that was a priority for us either way regardless of who we would have taken in the draft," Fisher said.
The Knicks seem content with point guards Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant. Galloway and Grant can play some shooting guard, too. But the Knicks want more experienced and proven players on the wing.
Portland shooting guard Wesley Matthews Jr., who is returning from a ruptured Achilles, would shore up the Knicks on the perimeter. Arron Afflalo, who played with Carmelo Anthony in Denver, is another possibility. Afflalo is a better defender than he is a shooter, but he can score.
Hawks swingman DeMarre Carroll and the Spurs' Danny Green could be options. Green, a North Babylon native, could be available if San Antonio breaks the bank on other free agents and can't pay him. But Green is expected to draw interest from contending teams.
Of the Knicks' own free agents, the most likely candidates to return include Lance Thomas, Jason Smith, Lou Amundson and Cole Aldrich.
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