Personal reasons? More like personnel reasons.
Joakim Noah left the Knicks mid-road trip and has missed the last two games due to what the team regarded as “personal reasons.” But according to Shams Charania, a “heated verbal exchange” with Coach Jeff Hornacek during New York’s loss to the Golden State Warriors has been the driving force of the absence. Additionally, it’s now led to the Knicks’ exploring ways to part with the two-time NBA all-star.
Noah’s $72 million, four year contract has been a thorn in this organization’s side, not only because it clogs up the payroll, but because it serves as a glaring reminder of Phil Jackson’s failed executive tenure with the team. Steve Mills and Scott Perry have slowly chipped away and made strides in cleaning up other parts of his his mess, but Noah is much too difficult to move for anything of value.
His overwhelming pact presents its own challenges, but the Knicks certainly haven’t done themselves any favors if they’re truly committed to trading Noah. Initially unable to play the first twelve games of the season as part of a carrying over drug-related suspension from the previous campaign, New York has seemingly had no use for the big man even when he has been available. He’s often been seen at games in street clothes, only throwing on a uniform in the event of multiple injuries or absences. To date, Noah has appeared in just 7 games this season, averaging 1.7 points and 2 rebounds in 5.7 minutes per contest.
Here’s the ironic thing: if given the opportunity, Noah could probably serve as a more than reliable backup (and dare I say, even a spot-starter) in this league. His physicality in playing defense and grabbing rebounds still remains. His basketball IQ is still high and before this week’s abrupt departure, he had proven himself to be a consummate veteran teammate to the Knicks’ young core. In his only appearance surpassing 10 minutes this season, Noah logged 13 and grabbed 4 points and 4 rebounds as part of a fourth-quarter brigade that led New York over the Pelicans on December 30. He’s certainly not worth his current annual salary, but he probably still has a chance to be serviceable. However, any slim chance at a deal to a competitor is now all but dead since it’s become clear the Knicks are looking to part ways following an altercation with the coach.
Assuming a trade is out of the question, the Knicks can look to waive Noah and sleep in the bed that Jackson made by paying him for the next two seasons. They may also hold out hope in that Noah’s own desperation to find minutes elsewhere, he accepts a buyout and forfeits even the smallest bit of his salary. Another alternative would be using the stretch provision on his contract, which would soften the blow of the amount paid per year, but would still tie New York’s commitment to Noah past the current duration of his deal.
While it remains to be seen how this union officially ends, it’s safe to say the Knicks will face an uphill battle either way and that neither side expected things to fizzle out quite like this.