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Isola: No secret Knicks have eyes on Pistons' Greg Monroe

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Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe

ORLANDO — 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.

And don’t think it is just a coincidence that Jackson’s long-time friend, Charley Rosen, was recently quoted saying that Monroe is the perfect triangle player. If the Knicks were to win one of the top picks in the NBA Draft Lottery they would be in position to select either Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. A frontline of Carmelo Anthony with Monroe and Towns or Okafor is, needless to say, a slight upgrade over what the team has been putting on the floor for most of the season.

Of course, Rosen also said that Towns, a terrific athlete, worker and thinker, doesn’t fit the triangle because he does not possess, how can we say this, Kim Kardashian-type assets. So when Jackson tells you not to make too much over the triangle just remember this; behind the scenes Jackson is always thinking about his beloved triangle.

Despite having never appeared in the playoffs, Monroe is an upgrade. And if he joins the Knicks, Monroe would be the latest in a long line of former Georgetown players to wear the orange and blue. Former Hoyas Patrick Ewing, David Wingate, Othella Harrington, Jerome Williams, Dikembe Mutombo and Michael Sweetney all had varying degrees of success (and failures) with the Knicks.

BUTLER DOES IT?

Despite all the downright absurd talk about minute restrictions in Chicago, the Bulls’ media relations department sent an email pushing Jimmy Butler for Most Improved Player. In it the club lists his achievements, including the fact that Butler has established a career high in — wait for it — average minutes per game.

So which one is it exactly: is Butler playing too many minutes or not?

It gets better. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the minute restrictions on Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose will be lifted once the playoffs begin. Hallelujah!

If you’ve watched the Bulls’ two highest-paid players play this season you’ll notice that they’ve both underachieved. Is that the result of minute restrictions or injuries? Perhaps both. But here’s the thing, Tom Thibodeau may be better off by playing Noah and Rose…less. At the very least, make Rose a back-up since he’s no longer the fearless attacking point guard he once was. He now fancies himself as a 3-point shooter who is shooting 28% from behind the arc. Someone needs to restrict those shots.

FEEL THE HEAT

Jackson’s first full season in New York has been a complete bust. Of the temp workers Jackson signed it’s hard to see any of them as rotation players on a good team. Maybe Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas will eventually get there.

Now, compare that to the job Pat Riley has done in Miami where the Heat, despite losing LeBron James to free agency and seeing Chris Bosh lost for the season after the All-Star break, remain in playoff contention.

Riley acquired point guard Goran Dragic at the trade deadline and during last offseason, and signed journeyman center Hassan Whiteside, who does not play like a one-hit wonder. Riley has built and re-built the Miami Heat four times over during his 20 seasons in Miami, and don’t bet against him to land another big-name free agent.

Plus, Riley, like Larry Bird, is the type of executive who is comfortable away from the spotlight, doesn’t make excuses and lets his work speak for itself. And another thing, Riley and Bird don’t feel the need to share their thoughts on Twitter.

SHOWTIME AT THE AFFLALO

Portland, which lost shooting guard Wesley Matthews to a torn Achilles, may not have Matthews’ replacement, Arron Afflalo available for the start of the playoffs. Afflalo suffered a right shoulder sprain last week and will be out one to two weeks.

Golden State will face either Oklahoma City or New Orleans in the first round, and while Russell Westbrook is a dangerous cover for any team, the Pelicans feature one of the league’s best big men, Anthony Davis, and an underrated point guard in Jrue Holiday, who returned Friday after missing three months with a stress reaction in his right leg.

LeBron James says he’d vote himself for MVP. Nice of him to forget the two-week vacation he took in late December. We remember it which is why the MVP will be either Steph Curry or James Harden.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Bucks coach Jason Kidd have done the most with less this season.

Whatever happened to the 54-win Knicks from two years ago? Well, a lot of them are headed to the playoffs; Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire (Dallas). J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert (Cleveland), Pablo Prigioni (Houston), Kidd (Milwaukee) and Mike Woodson (Clippers).

Carmelo, your thoughts?

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