LAS VEGAS - Phil Jackson was the biggest star inside the ballroom at the Encore, and that apparently was by design. But the Knicks don't want it to always be that way.
They unveiled their four new free-agent acquisitions Friday -- Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams and Kyle O'Quinn. None is an All-Star, and only two are proven NBA starters. But the Knicks believe they had a great offseason, putting players around Carmelo Anthony who complement him, fit the triangle offense and provide much-needed defense and versatility.
"I think we've put together a group of guys that help round out our team," general manager Steve Mills said. "We tried to be as clear as we could possibly be that we weren't chasing the biggest stars. That's not how we're trying to build this team."
The Knicks, however, met with DeAndre Jordan and were scheduled to sit down with perennial All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, but that meeting got canceled.
In the end, the Knicks spent nearly $100 million on Lopez, Afflalo, Williams and O'Quinn. They hope they have assembled the right mix of hard-working and selfless players who can turn the 17-win Knicks into a playoff team and New York into a destination city for NBA stars again.
"We're in a position where we think, as our team gets better, we can attract the big stars," Mills said. "We can do that." The proof will be next summer when Kevin Durant hits the open market. The Knicks will be among the teams seeking an audience with Durant next July. For now, they're content with what they have done thus far.
Lopez, who was the Knicks' fall-back option after Greg Monroe turned them down, plays with energy and hustle. Coach Derek Fisher called Lopez a "nasty competitor" and "one of the best" defensive anchors, and the 7-footer looks forward to proving that.
"I'm very excited about that," he said. "I think there's a little pressure . . . I like to facilitate and help my teammates in any way I can."
Lopez signed a four-year, $54-million contract that was contingent upon Jordan turning down the Knicks. Lopez had other options but said he wanted to be a Knick.
"I was OK with that," Lopez said. "Whenever I'm on the court, whenever I'm between those lines, I'm as competitive as anybody else. I want to be the best player I can be on the court. I've done a good job helping my teammates being a good complementary player. So egotism is not one of my faults. I would hope that would not be the case."
Afflalo, who inked a two-year, $16-million deal, canceled his meetings with other teams after sitting down with Knicks officials in Los Angeles. He said Jackson -- who didn't speak to reporters Friday -- "plopped" down a laptop and showed video of the triangle, and the veteran guard felt comfortable with what the Knicks were trying to accomplish.
Mills revealed that Afflalo's agent told him before the trade deadline that he wanted to play for the Knicks. Said Afflalo, "They didn't have to do too much recruiting."
"I wanted to be here. I saw an opportunity to kind of get into a situation where they were looking to rise up again. That's what you want to be a part of -- a challenging situation that brings out the best in you.
"A franchise like the Knicks, people can say what they want, they're not going to be down for long. The city's too great. The fan base is too great. The opportunities are too great that over time you'll have a great culture, great players trickling in slowly but surely, because this is a city that deserves to be at its best."
The Knicks re-signed Lance Thomas to a one-year, $1.6-million contract. They have four open roster spots and about $1.3 million of cap room, the $2.8-million exception and minimum salaries to offer free agents.
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