Maybe the worst kept secret in the NBA is that Phil Jackson plans to pursue Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe in free agency this summer. In fact, one league executive called it "about as close to a done deal as you can get."
A done deal is illegal of course and would open Jackson and the Knicks to tampering charges. A more likely scenario is that representatives from both parties have made their interest known and will proceed accordingly once the free-agent recruiting period begins on July 1st. It happens all the time.
Still, the talk among scouts and executives who attended the Portsmouth Invitational is that Monroe is Jackson's primary free-agent target. It's easy to connect the dots; Monroe's agent, David Falk, is one of the few agents that Jackson has a relationship with going back more than 20 years when Falk was representing Michael Jordan. Falk is looking for a max contract for Monroe and the Knicks, coming off the worst season in franchise history, are happy to oblige.
Instinct tell me to dismiss this as Falk et al pulling a textbook Grant Hill Maneuver (trumpet feasible Knicks interest to boost your client's value), but then I look back at the last few months. Monroe's name has been floating around for a while, and just last month, purported Phil Jackson surrogate Charley Rosen got everyone in a lather about Monroe's butt. If you'll permit me SAUCES for a second, I've heard myself that the Knicks want some Moose in their lives. So if it's a GHM, or if the Knicks' leaks belie their actual intentions, it's quite an elaborate charade.
What, then, of Monroe? He's 24, he's big, he's a reliable producer in the post, decent at dishing out of it, and I reckon he's grown some from his reputation as a lumbering, ineffective defender. Zach Lowe touched on that a few months back. Monroe's been adequate defending the post, and he does some things as a helper now to go with solid enough rebounding. He has improved, and he's young enough to improve further.
Moose still isn't a guy you'd pursue *for* his defense, though, and he's not the easiest fit on offense. He offers nothing outside the paint, which would limit the places the Knicks could use him in the Triangle (or otherwise) and send ripples into Carmelo Anthony's habitat, as well as New York's other free agent pursuits.
I'm not firmly anti-Monroe, especially if the Knicks could draft and sign enough defenders to stock balanced two-way lineups. I just don't love the idea that a potential max signing (albeit a young, and therefore relatively cheap, one) would intensify certain needs as much as he'd fill others. Melo is an offensive hub, so I'm not so sure about prioritizing another offensive hub over guys who offer value from more spots on the floor, thrive off the ball, and -- above all else -- play defense you don't have to fret over.
I'm getting ahead of things, though. It's just mid-April, ten weeks from the point at which the Knicks can officially talk to anyone. More interesting now than the idea of Monroe is the fact that someone is doing so much work to get his name out there. If it's his representatives, maybe we shouldn't take this so seriously. If it's the Knicks ... why are y'all calling your shot like that?
Every front office has a unique relationship with agencies and the media during periods of pursuit, and we're not quite sure yet how Phil's Knicks prowl. There's been a decent amount of noise this season -- much of it around this one guy -- and come autumn, we'll have to look back at all these to appreciate what the hell it all meant.