“About the New York Knicks, they told me that they wanted me to play strictly [center],” he said, per Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. “So they didn’t want to meet with me. People was saying it was me, but it was both parties agreeing that we shouldn’t meet.” - LaMarcus Aldridge
Uhh, I'm a little confused here. Since when are the New York Knicks in any position to be turning down All-Star players? I don't care if LaMarcus Aldridge wanted to play point guard. If you are Phil Jackson you offer him the ability to do so, even if you have no intention of following through on it. You never attempt to sell a offensive power forward on playing center. None of them want to play center. They may do so under extenuating circumstances (i.e. they are getting paid max money to do so), but battling against bigger, more physical players all the time is not something they find intriguing. It's not a selling point. Phil Jackson could have literally told LaMarcus Aldridge that he wanted to impregnate his mother and castrate his father and had a better chance of coming to terms on a meeting. Don't tell me this team let the fact that they drafted a 7'3 Latvian, that would most likely be best suited as a stretch 4, influence what franchise altering players they would pick up in free agency. That seems like a problem you go about solving after the fact. Gather the pieces first, see where they fit later. Especially when the pieces they have now are all either broken or misplaced. Trying to build a team around the Knicks roster as of now is like trying to fit a square peg into a non-existent hole, but adding LaMarcus Aldridge at least makes it resemble some kind of puzzle. Now granted, with an offer from San Antonio on the table, he wasn't coming to the dumpster fire in New York anyway. However, if your a Knicks fan the fact that Phil Jackson is turning away talent before it sets foot in the door isn't going to make you feel any better.
At best, the Knicks would get the first pick and tab center Jahlil Okafor, although Jackson thinks he might not be aggressive enough. “Also, if you look at the guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations?”
I'll say this, Phil Jackson isn't wrong. A large majority of players that were successful at Duke only went on to have average NBA careers at best. The fact that Grant Hill, a player that spent half his career injured on the sidelines, is the only exception to that is a little bit telling. However, if that is all the 'Zen Master' has got in his bag of tricks then this magic show may be coming to an unceremonious end. If that's how Phil Jackson plans on building a team then I could build a team. Any overly opinionated asshole on Twitter could build a team. Any college basketball fan that has an irrational level of hatred for Duke can build a team. "First order of business men. No Duke players. They stink, and I hate them." Why thank you for imparting your wisdom on us Phil. Thanks for shunning a University that craps out NBA level talent on an annual basis. Is that the most otherworldly thing you could concoct in your brain while meditating in your secret garden? Is that what the Knicks are paying you all that money for, to declare a school incapable of producing a All-Star caliber NBA players? Seems like a pretty solid way to be proven wrong. Especially with the most promising Duke prospect in years being drafted one spot before you.
I think what's going on here is that Phil doesn't like to be rejected. What better way to avoid getting rejected than by rejecting LaMarcus Aldridge first. What better way to ease a fan base that was up in arms that you won games down the stretch, and cost yourself a shot at Jahlil Okafor, than by telling them that Jahlil Okafor is going to suck based strictly on one year of schooling at one particular university. Turn down the players before the players turn down you. Influence the fans before they get influenced by what they see on the actual basketball court. On second thought, maybe I am the simple minded one for thinking strictly about basketball. Maybe Phil's mind games are just too supernatural for me to understand. Either way, a Knicks team with LaMarcus Aldridge and Jahlil Okafor is far better than a Knicks team without them. No matter what justification the Zen Master chooses to create.