Hey y'all, remember that report from early July that LaMarcus Aldridge cancelled a meeting with the Knicks over Phil Jackson's insistence that he play center? It turns out the truth is slightly more complicated:
Aldridge said on the Russillo Show on ESPN Radio that Phil Jackson and the Knicks wanted him to "strictly" play center. Aldridge didn’t want to solely play center. Thus, Aldridge and the Knicks agreed to cancel their scheduled meeting in free agency, Aldridge said.
"They didn’t want to meet with me," Aldridge said. "Some people said it was me. But it was both parties agreeing that we shouldn’t meet."
Jackson did indeed prioritize the center position, signing Aldridge's former teammate Robin Lopez to a four-year, $54 million deal. The whole thing about Aldridge playing exclusively at center is a bit weird, and I doubt the Knicks would be so strict with him had he actually signed (Aldridge at center isn't exactly a Triangle necessity). A whole lotta context and between-the-lines reading is required here.
Aldridge shares many similar traits with Carmelo Anthony, who, last time I checked, still plays for the Knicks. Both are high-usage scorers who work primarily in the spot on the floor, the left elbow area. Both have found success in the past moving up a position in small-ball lineups, yet were notoriously stubborn about remaining at their "natural" spot. Take a gander at this quote from Blazers fan Corbin Smith and tell me this doesn't sound familiar:
(Andre) Miller-Matthews-Batum-(Gerald) Wallace-Aldridge was the best offensive lineup in the NBA over a 300-Minute threshold in 2010-2011. Miller, Batum, and Wallace were dynamic playmakers, Matthews was finding his stroke, Andre Miller could throw a successful lob to a particularly mobile watermelon. They clocked 1.22 Points Per Possession. This is very high!
So, WHY DIDN'T HE PLAY CENTER!? My lord, it was maddening.
Like Melo, Aldridge isn't the kind of star you can simply plug into any lineup and expect success. A smart executive must either surround him with a very particular set of teammates and let him play the 4, or somehow convince him to play the 5. A Melo/LMA duo was always a precarious idea, and it would never work unless Phil convinced Aldridge to play outside his comfort zone.
So, please, ignore the "LOLZ Knicks is dumb" takes. Phil Jackson prioritized the best fit over the biggest name, and that's a good thing.