So Jackson went out and targeted upper-echelon players like Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Monroe opted to join the Milwaukee Bucks. DeAndre Jordan on Friday agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. And Aldridge, courted by several N.B.A. contenders, turned down a meeting with the Knicks.
The team’s fallback plan materialized in the wake of those misses, as the Knicks hashed out a deal with Robin Lopez, a 7-foot center who agreed to a four-year deal worth $54 million, according to a person briefed on the negotiations. No deals can become official until Thursday, when the N.B.A.’s moratorium on signings and trades ends.
Yahoo Sports was the first to report the terms of the deal.
The Knicks are paying a fairly steep price for Lopez, who is a solid defender and rebounder but a limited scorer. Lopez, 27, whose twin, Brook, plays for the Nets, averaged 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds as the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting center the past two seasons.
Lopez earned about $6.1 million last season with Portland. The Knicks are more than doubling his salary, a reflection of their need to fill the vacancies in their frontcourt and a looming rise in the salary cap. The cap is expected to jump from about $67 million this summer to $88 million (or more) next summer, as the league collects revenue from a lucrative new television deal.
On Twitter, Lopez wrote, “Excited to be part of the #Knicks legacy! It’s going to be like ‘On the Town’ but w/way more box outs & dunks.”
Jordan’s decision to leave the Los Angeles Clippers for the Mavericks sent a jolt through the N.B.A. Jordan, a 26-year-old center, had been a key player for the Clippers. Last season, he averaged 11.5 points and a league-best 15 rebounds a game as Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference semifinals before falling to the Houston Rockets.
Wesley Matthews, a swingman who had been considered a potential target for the Knicks, had already agreed to sign with the Mavericks, who have made a strong push in free agency to re-emerge as a power in the West. Matthews, though, is coming off Achilles’ surgery, and Jordan left two stars behind — Blake Griffin and Chris Paul — in Los Angeles.
Lopez joined Arron Afflalo, a 6-foot-5 guard, as the Knicks’ key acquisitions in free agency. The Knicks met Friday with Corey Brewer, a swingman who averaged 11.9 points a game off the bench for the Rockets last season, before he decided to re-sign with the Rockets.
The Knicks entered free agency with only five players under contract. They also have two first-round draft picks — Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-1 forward, and Jerian Grant, a point guard — who will probably need to contribute early.
The Knicks are engaging in a long rebuild, an approach that does not necessarily seem to mesh with their decision to re-sign Carmelo Anthony last summer for five years and $124 million. Anthony, 31, is coming off knee surgery and has indicated that he would prefer to play for a contender in his prime, which is now — and not two or three years from now.
Still, Anthony took the Knicks’ money when he had offers to join teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Rockets, teams with fuller rosters and much more realistic title aspirations.
Lopez and Afflalo are upgrades, though, and Lopez, in particular, would help solidify the Knicks’ interior defense and allow Anthony to operate at power forward. Lopez’s relocation to New York also makes for a fascinating intracity reunion and rivalry with his brother, who recently re-signed with the Nets for three years and $60 million.
Robin and Brook Lopez were teammates at Stanford before they became first-round draft picks in 2008, and they have remained very close. Both are noted comic book aficionados and have expressed an interest in someday working together in the field. They talk frequently.
Before the Trail Blazers faced the Nets in Brooklyn last season, they hit a fast-food drive-through at 2:30 a.m.
“My mom was in the house,” Brook Lopez said at the time. “We snuck out.”
Yet they have managed to maintain a professional relationship whenever they run up against each other in games. When the Trail Blazers faced the Nets in Brooklyn last season, they did not exchange one word for the length of the game — which was by design.
“I’m sure it looks really weird to you guys,” Brook Lopez said. “I can’t explain it. It’s been unsaid this whole time. We’ve never talked about it.”
Robin Lopez also has a noted aversion for mascots. Fortunately for him, the Knicks do not have one.