Knicks, Joakim Noah Take Step toward Divorce

By Popper, Steve | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), February 3, 2018 | Go to article overview

Knicks, Joakim Noah Take Step toward Divorce


Popper, Steve, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


MILWAUKEE — The Knicks were finishing off the last moments of their morning shootaround at the Bradley Center as usual, lightheartedly challenging each other with an assortment of trick shots, all smiles and happiness.

While the Knicks may not be a roster built to contend right now, sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, they were at least at peace. And that baby step in building a normal franchise after years of dysfunction was at the heart of the decision to move Joakim Noah away from the team.

While Noah has been away since a heated exchange with Knicks' coach Jeff Hornacek in Golden State on Feb. 23 and again the next day at practice in Denver, a Knicks team official said Friday that in a mutual decision Noah will not be with the team until further notice.

The team is actively searching for a way to make the parting permanent, scouring the trade market to see if there is a taker for a player who has seen his value plummet from just a few years ago when he was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14. Since then he has endured seasons of injury and other troubles - including a 20-game PED suspension that ran from the final eight games of last season to the first 12 of this season.

In the second year of a four-year, $72 million contract he has played just seven games - totaling 40 minutes - for the Knicks this season. And with the remainder of this season as well as two more years and nearly $38 million still due to him, the Knicks' front office of Steve Mills and Scott Perry are challenged to find a way out.

The acknowledgment finally by the franchise that this separation is likely leading to a divorce may ease the tension of having a former MVP candidate sitting and stewing at the end of the bench, but also presented another blow to the tenure of Phil Jackson as team president.

Jackson signed Noah to the contract while many scouts and executives around the league spoke about the decline in Noah's physical skills.

While he arrived as a starter last season before injuries diminished him, when the Knicks obtained Enes Kanter before the start of training camp the competition for the starting job was on and with Noah suspended for the first 12 games he fell out of the race. Kanter played well, Kyle O'Quinn played well enough to secure the backup role and Willy Hernangomez was next in line.

"It's the stage that we're at," Hornacek said. "We got young guys, Enes, Kyle, Willy, Jo, It's tough. It's tough on everybody. What we're trying to do as a team is to try to grow the young guys, give them opportunities. …

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