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Pau Gasol surprised Phil Jackson didn’t reach out about joining Knicks during free agency

Wanting to end the Knicks‘ three year playoff drought, Phil Jackson made a series of moves in the offseason. Most notably, Jackson traded for Derrick Rose and signed Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal.

Both moves have not made much of a difference for the Knicks. Rose has played well at times but hasn’t really moved the needle. Noah was largely ineffective before being suffering a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. And somewhat related to both rosters moves not being successful, the Knicks will miss out on the postseason for the fourth straight year.

Signing Noah to such an expensive and lengthy contract was viewed as an unwise move at the time and has since proved to be, especially since the Knicks could have gone in a different direction at center. Veteran big man Pau Gasol was a free agent, and with his knowledge of the Triangle offense and familiarity with Phil Jackson (who coached him on the Lakers), the Spaniard would have been a decent fit. But Jackson never reached out to Gasol during free agency, which surprised the now Spurs center.

From Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“No, no contact,” Gasol said before he looked as smooth as ever in scorching the Knicks for 19 points Saturday in San Antonio. “I was surprised, too.”

Berman notes that Jackson has said in the past that Gasol was one of his favorite players to coach, so it is at least a little bit surprising that the Knicks president didn’t reach out. However, Gasol likely wouldn’t have been a good fit for the Knicks. Jackson pursued Noah instead because he believed that the one-time Defensive Player of the Year winner could improve New York’s shoddy defense. Defense isn’t one of Gasol’s strong suits, so Jackson’s reasoning for choosing Noah has some merits at least.

Gasol though, could’ve been a nice veteran addition to the Knicks and he is still a strong scorer. He also could’ve served as a mentor for Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez, two of New York’s young big men. But Gasol’s deficiencies on the defensive end would’ve left the Knicks an even worse team defensively than they already are, and the Knicks don’t need his scoring or him eating up Porzingis’ minutes.

Gasol may have been surprised, but perhaps he shouldn’t have been. Plus he is in much better in position in San Antonio, where Gasol is playing for a championship contender — something which the Knicks are far from being.

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