LAS VEGAS -- Team president Phil Jackson believes the New York Knicks must prove they can be a winning franchise before they can be considered a destination for the NBA's premier free agents.
"We need to win, be a competitive team," Jackson said Monday at the Las Vegas Summer League in his first public comments since the Knicks signed center Robin Lopez, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, and forwards Derrick Williams and Kyle O'Quinn in free agency. "I think we showed agents and players around the league a serious nature of what we're trying to accomplish. People who know basketball will recognize that, and we'll have people who want to come here."
The Knicks, coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 campaign in Jackson's first season running the team, missed on their top targets in free agency. DeAndre Jordan opted to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks also were never seriously considered by LaMarcus Aldridge.
A scheduled meeting with Aldridge was canceled by Jackson because Aldridge preferred to play power forward rather than center and Jackson prioritized the center position in free agency, league sources told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley. Another top target, Greg Monroe, chose the Milwaukee Bucks over the Knicks.
Jackson said Monroe made the right decision by choosing to sign with a "young, active team" with the speed to complement his low-post game.
"Greg went to the right spot," Jackson said. "That's the right place for him. We understand that entirely. In fact, we discussed even with our meeting about our hopes and how it was going to go and what we were looking for. He was the first stop on the way, but it wasn't that. They had set it up that way. We had talked to him, and it was according to plan."
The Knicks attempted to salvage free agency by signing Lopez to a four-year, $54 million deal to serve as a defensive anchor. Last season, with the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged 9.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The Knicks gave Afflalo, who averaged 13.3 points for two teams last season, a two-year, $16 million deal to start on the wing opposite star small forward Carmelo Anthony.
"We made a defensive attempt in free agency to really kind of solidify our team and give ourselves a basis from which we can work from," Jackson said. "I think everything went according to how we thought it would go. There were some long shots out there that we took, but the reality was, we wanted what we got.
"We really said we want to play defense, and this is what we're attempting to do with our free agency. This is going to make a difference. Teams win by defensively taking a stance."
Jackson said he has not discussed the Knicks' moves with Anthony, who signed a five-year max contract last summer, and that he didn't feel the need to defend himself for not landing a legitimate co-star.
"I don't look at basketball that way," Jackson said. "I mean, that's what we've done over the years in New York. That's not what I'm doing. We're going after solid players that step into vacuums and play ball. If we have a system that we play basketball together with, that'll all work itself out."
Jackson was asked if he's concerned whether Anthony, 31, has the patience for a long-term rebuild.
"We're a team sport. When we're putting a team together, that's our first priority," Jackson said. "How do we make it a team that works together? That's the important aspect of it. ... Obviously Carmelo is the guy that's the premier player. We understand that, but it's a team game. It has to fit together."
ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley contributed to this report.