Knicks, Joakim Noah rift persists but no buyout talks

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Monday, January 29, 2018

Knicks center Joakim Noah left the team last week after a lengthy disconnect between coach Jeff Hornacek and his staff, but there have been no conversations between the Knicks and Noah about a potential buyout on the remaining three years and $56 million on his contract, per ESPN sources.

Sources said that Noah has no inclination to give back significant money on his contract in any buyout with New York.

Sources say the veteran center is currently working out and waiting for the Knicks to deliver word on the next steps after he left the club Thursday for what the team called "personal reasons."

The Knicks on Monday said that Noah is unlikely to be with the team for Tuesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets but may return to the club during its two-game road trip later this week.

Hornacek has declined to comment on the reasons behind Noah's absence, but sources say that the relationship between Noah and the Knicks coaches has grown acrimonious recently.

Sources confirm that Noah yelled at Hornacek in front of his teammates when the coach removed him from the fourth quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors last Tuesday. The exchange was first reported by the New York Daily News. That was one example of growing discord between Noah, Hornacek and his staff.

Noah has been largely out of the Knicks' rotation this season, appearing in seven of the club's 48 games (he missed the first 12 games while serving the remainder of a 20-game suspension for using a banned substance). The front office had talked to teams over the summer and more recently about trades involving the 33-year-old center, but opposing teams have been wary of taking back Noah's contract.

The former Defensive Player of the Year signed a four-year, $72 million contract with New York in the summer of 2016.

Then-team president Phil Jackson signed Noah with the hope that he could be an anchor for New York's defense. Thus far, though, Noah's Knicks tenure has been noteworthy mostly for things that have transpired off the court.

He appeared in just 46 games last season, missing time due to various injuries and an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Noah was suspended for 20 games in February for taking a substance banned by the NBA.

The New York native averaged 5 points and 8.8 rebounds in 26 minutes per game last season. This year, Noah has averaged 1.7 points and two rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game.

Hornacek on Monday was asked about the difficulty of keeping a veteran like Noah out of the rotation and playing big men Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn ahead of him.

"When you look at our team and the stage that we're at, it's tough on everybody to have four guys and what they've done," Hornacek said in reference to Kanter, Noah, O'Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. "Again, it's kind of like our point guards. Everybody lends something different. So it is what it is. They're all competitors, they all want to play and sometimes it just doesn't happen."

If the Knicks choose to waive Noah via the stretch provision, the club would owe him $7.5 million over five seasons as opposed to $18.5 million in 2018-19 and $19.3 million in the final year of his contract. Stretching Noah's contract would eat away at New York's cap space in summers in which hopes to be in position to attract free agents.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report

Related Video