Earlier this season, Derrick Rose walked away from the Cavs for three weeks to re-evaluate. Of course, he returned. He wasn’t walking away from $20 million remaining on his shoe contract. After three weeks, he decided he had enough vacation time. It was Rose’s second awol. He did it last year with the Knicks and maybe Joakim Noah got the point. You can just take off for “personal reasons” and everybody is cool if you are adequately contrite.
Today Noah did his walkaway. It is supposed to be for two games but when coach Jeff Hornacek said, “we’ll see”, it wasn’t very encouraging.
Noah is in a funk. He has played in 7 games this season, five minutes per game. Basically he is irrelevant. It is understandable. The modern NBA has passed Noah by. He doesn’t space or stretch the floor. He always was a limited scoring presence, skilled at the intangibles. But the pace of the game means he can’t even do that. The Knicks depend on Enes Kanter.
Kanter has been better than advertised. Active and always throwing shade towards LeBron. 45 games started. 13 points, 10 rebounds, 121 offensive rating. His 3.5 offensive rebounds point to his constant energy. He is a nice compliment to Porzingis and Kanter is 25 years old, 7 years younger than Noah.
To refresh. Joakim Noah signed a ridiculous free agent contract in 2016 with no opt-outs and to show his appreciation he had the second worst season of his career. (I’m not counting his cheerleading role this year) As atrocious as he was in 2016-17, the year before he was akin to a statue in the park, which made his signing a moment of insanity for beleaguered and now fired Phil Jackson. Phil knew what Noah was. The numbers spelled it out. In 2015-16 he played 29 games and only started 2. He made 38.3% of his shots, 48.9% of his free throws, but to his credit Noah rebounded the ball 8.8 times a game. He moved the ball well but only scored 4.3 points a game. But Jax still felt it necessary to outbid the market and drop $17 mil in his lap which would have been fine if the salary cap didn’t exist. But it does. So the Noah salary is a huge weight dragging the cap down. Noah was paid $3.4 million for every point scored, after only playing 46 games last season.
The sorrowful news is the Knicks are stuck with Noah. He is their Phil Jackson legacy as much as Kristaps Porzingis is. I am not going to say he can’t be traded. The Lakers traded Timofey Mozgov who is making nearly the same salary as Noah but Mozgov’s production this season is what Noah would hope for: 14 starts, 12.8 minutes. 4.4 points.
The Knicks, I suppose, were optimistic about a newer Noah version but it is the same old Noah thing. His inability to play in the league doesn’t even matter. Where last year he was infectious, leaving a curse upon a team who was treading water most of the season and then just drowned at the end, this year he is just invisible. In New York, Noah’s name used to be dirt, now no one cares.
Remember this quote from the summer of 2017?
“I don’t feel sorry for myself. Everything that happened were my decision. I’m a grown-ass man. I’m playing in New York City. It sucked because i didn’t play well. I get to bounce back and come back next year. I’m not going to quit.”
The imaginary thinking of Joakim Noah has him going back in time and reverting to the Noah of 2013-14 when he played 80 games, pulled in 11.3 rebounds and had a defensive rating of 96. In 30 days Noah will be 33 years old. He can’t play anymore. His body is old, his knees are shot and he is a one dimensional player grabbing rebounds and not guarding anyone. He’s getting paid for being a bench warmer. It annoys Noah and it should. I would want to walk away too. Except no one forced him to sign a deal with no opt outs. He grabbed money. Now it’s pay the piper time. Do your turn on the bench or retire.
Before the seasson started Noah tried to be optimistic. “It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you are made of.”
Noah served a suspension for using a banned substance. He says he accidentally ingested selective androgen receptor modulate LGD 4033. It is similar to anabolic steroids. He was in the midst of his recovery from knee surgery when he made the decision (accidentally) to take the banned substance. He admitted to a level of addiction in which he experienced withdrawal. But now you wonder if he took the substance because he saw the handwriting on the wall and he was desperate.
“I know I did it because I wanted to be there for the squad and I wanted to be better and I wanted to be alright. I was hurt. So it’s definitely a hell of a learning experience, definitely an uppercut to the face.”
During training camp, the question was could Joakim Noah be trusted? Enes Kanter has answered that question. No. No. No. But back then, there was the brave face of Noah, his pride. “It’s not about the Knicks fans. It’s about me. About me being comfortable.”
I got it. Being comfortable means walking away in January and leaving your team for “personal reasons.”
photo via llananba