Selling players on the triangle offense continues to be difficult for Knicks president Phil Jackson, who lost out on the man he targeted to play the middle in his system.
Greg Monroe said no to Jackson and the Knicks Thursday, agreeing to a three-year maximum contract for about $50 million to play for the Bucks.
The Knicks have made signing a big man a priority, and many expected it to be Monroe. They upped their pursuit of 7-foot Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez and were close to an agreement Thursday night.
A league source confirmed an ESPN.com report that Lopez had committed to sign with the Knicks unless they land Clippers free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. Yahoo! Sports reported the deal could pay Lopez $12 million to $13 million per season.
Jackson and other Knicks officials met with Jordan on Thursday. The Knicks were considered long shots, as the Clippers and Mavericks reportedly are the frontrunners for Jordan.
Trail Blazers All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge reportedly canceled Thursday's meeting with Jackson. He's said to be deciding between the Spurs, Trail Blazers and Suns.
The Knicks did add a player on the second day of free agency, agreeing to terms with shooting guard Arron Afflalo, 29, on a two-year, $16-million deal, a league source said. He gives them much-needed shooting and perimeter defense. Deals can't be announced until next Thursday.
Lopez, whose twin brother Brook plays for the Nets, isn't the offensive player Brook is and is known more for his hustle, energy and defense. Robin, who met with the Knicks Wednesday night, has career averages of 8.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He averaged 9.6 points and 6.7 rebounds last season.
The Knicks had roughly $27 million for free agency and were hoping to spread it between three starting-caliber players. Lopez and Afflalo, whose deal includes a player option in year two, could cost about $20 million and leave the Knicks with enough to sign another starter.
Not getting Monroe was a major setback for Jackson in his offseason plan to turn the Knicks into a playoff team after they finished a franchise-worst 17-65 last season. They met with Monroe when free agency began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
The 6-11 former Piston was viewed as a good fit for the triangle and his agent, David Falk, who also represented Michael Jordan, has a longstanding relationship with Jackson. But Falk said Monroe wanted to join a playoff team. The Bucks, under Jason Kidd, made the playoffs last season.
Reports indicated that the Knicks didn't offer a maximum contract to Monroe. Falk, however, refuted that, calling it "inaccurate and insulting to me, Phil Jackson and the Knicks."
Falk said that after playing five seasons with Detroit and for five coaches, "Greg had two priorities: he wanted a franchise with stability and he wanted the likelihood he would be in the playoffs more immediately, and he saw Milwaukee as the most short-term chance to be in the playoffs."
If Monroe had gotten a max deal from the Knicks, they would have been left with about $3 million after the Afflalo agreement. They want to have flexibility this summer and next, when Kevin Durant will be the prize free agent.
A nine-year veteran, Afflalo has averaged 11.4 points for the Pistons, Nuggets, Magic and Trail Blazers and is a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter. He averaged 13.3 points last season and hit 42.4 percent of his shots. In Denver, Afflalo played with Carmelo Anthony, who reportedly called to recruit his old teammate.
The Knicks also are speaking with other free agents, including Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley and Magic guard Willie Green, and are looking to re-sign some of their own players, such as Lance Thomas.
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