( 4UMF NEWS ) Joakim Noah Likely Headed To The Knicks:
Signs are pointing to the Knicks landing Joakim Noah as their top free agent in the coming days, which gives Phil Jackson his starting center but would likely knock New York out of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes before it even entered.
Sources said Noah emerged as the club’s No. 1 priority at center, the same day Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said that position would take precedence in free agency. According to ESPN, Noah – who has scheduled a sit-down with Jackson — has a strong desire to play in his hometown of New York and other teams have conceded him to the Knicks once free agency starts on July 1. His price tag would likely eat up the cap space required to sign a max free agent like Durant, and it’s unclear if the Knicks will wait to see if Durant denies them a meeting before moving definitively on Noah.
The Wizards and Timberwolves were also expected to be interested in Noah, the former Defensive Player of the Year who has struggled with injuries the past two seasons.
Hornacek suggested the Knicks will dedicate a good chunk of their $30-plus million in cap space to a center when asked to weigh their need at that position against the other hole at shooting guard.
“We have enough scorers,” Hornacek said. “We need a guy at shooting guard who can help to run the offense. Maybe get some kickout 3’s. We don’t necessarily need a two-man who can create a bunch of plays because we should have guys who are able to do that. So if you look at it that way, maybe the center might be a little bit more important now.”
Other top centers on the free agent market include Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Hassan Whiteside. However, momentum started building towards Noah when the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, who promptly starting recruiting his former teammate.
Rose and Noah played eight seasons together with the Bulls, peaking with an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Oh I want him. He knows that. I think his family knows that. I think everybody knows that,” Rose said at his introductory press conference, the day after partying with Noah in Manhattan.
Noah, 31, attended Poly Prep High School in Brooklyn and is the son of French tennis star Yannick Noah. The two-time All-Star is a tenacious competitor and an elite defender when healthy, but played only 29 games last season – starting two – because of a shoulder injury.
If he can stay on the court, Noah could certainly help Hornacek achieve his goal of becoming a top defensive team. The problem with committing too much money on a lengthy contract is that his game has been on the decline. However, such a move would fit into Carmelo Anthony’s win-now timeline.
“You got to play defense,” Hornacek said. “And I thought they were okay last year playing defense. Middle of the pack. We want to try to bump that up to top-10 (in the league) defensively. Using the length of Kristaps, if we have another big out there that’s two guys who can cover a lot of ground.”
Should the Knicks make this move to fill their center spot – the one vacated by trading Robin Lopez to Chicago – they’ll still need a starting shooting guard and the assets will be limited. They could bring back Langston Galloway, Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams to fill minutes on the wing. They also acquired shooting guard Justin Holiday in the trade for Rose.
After DeMar DeRozan and Dwyane Wade, who are expected to re-sign with their respective teams, the top wing free agents include Kent Bazemore, Evan Fournier, Nic Batum and Evan Turner. As the Daily News reported, the Knicks could bring back Jamal Crawford – who’d come cheaper than the younger shooting guards on the market.