Sources: Knicks don't want Joakim Noah back before trade deadline

ByAdrian Wojnarowski ESPN logo
Thursday, February 1, 2018

Exiled New York Knicks center Joakim Noah won't be required to return to the team before the passing of the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline, league sources told ESPN.

The Knicks and Noah's representation discussed his status Wednesday and agreed that Noah would stay away from the team until the front office can exhaust any trade possibilities between now and the deadline, league sources said.

Assuming the deadline passes without a deal for Noah, it is unclear how the Knicks and Noah will proceed together.

Finding a deal for Noah and the three years, $54 million left on his contract has already been a futile task for the Knicks, who, league sources say, are unwilling to attach significant future draft assets or young Knicks players to incentivize a team to take on Noah.

Before the Knicks jettisoned him, Noah and coach Jeff Hornacek had to be separated during a recent West Coast practice session, league sources told ESPN.

Noah had become vociferous toward Hornacek in the aftermath of a brief appearance in a game on Jan. 23, and engaged Hornacek in a verbal encounter in practice the next day.

The Knicks sent Noah away immediately, and it's possible they eventually work toward a separation instead of reincorporating Noah into the team.

The Knicks could try to negotiate a contract buyout with Noah and his agent Bill Duffy, but Noah's camp isn't motivated to give back guaranteed money on his contract without at least a clear avenue to make it back elsewhere as a free agent.

If the Knicks choose to waive Noah using the NBA's stretch provision, the franchise 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 cut into New York's cap space in summers in which the organization is hopeful of landing top free agents.

Former Knicks president Phil Jackson signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million free-agent deal in July 2016 with the hope that he could be an anchor for New York's defense. Noah never made a significant impact. He played in 46 games in the 2016-17 season, losing time to various injuries and an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. In February 2017, the NBA suspended Noah 20 games for taking a banned substance -- a suspension that cost him the first 12 games of this season.

Noah averaged 5 points and 8.8 rebounds in 26 minutes per game last season. This season, Noah has averaged 1.7 points and 2 rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game.

Noah played 4 minutes, 31 seconds in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' loss to the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 23. He was visibly upset when Hornacek pulled him from the game for starting center Enes Kanter as Noah believed he'd play more with big men Kyle O'Quinn and Kristaps Porzingis sidelined with injuries.

Noah yelled at Hornacek while coming off the floor and again while sitting on the bench, using expletives to express his displeasure about being removed from the game, league sources told ESPN's Ian Begley.