Earlier today, we relayed the latest comments from Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek on exiled center Joakim Noah. Hornacek sounded like someone who doesn’t expect Noah to return to the team this season, suggesting that the Knicks have “moved on” and adding that the veteran big man may be ready to seek an opportunity elsewhere.
While those comments made it sound like Noah’s release may be imminent, Hornacek’s answers to other questions made it clear that’s not necessarily the case. The Knicks head coach didn’t rule out the possibility of Noah returning to the team, suggesting that decision would ultimately be up to president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. Ian Begley of ESPN also heard from sources that the Knicks have shown no desire yet to waive Noah outright.
Hornacek’s comments and Begley’s reporting raise several questions about what exactly the Knicks’ plan is for Noah. For starters, would the team would be willing to bring back Noah this season and get him some playing time down the stretch in an effort to at least slightly improve his trade value for the offseason?
With Willy Hernangomez out of the picture, getting Noah some minutes at the expense of veterans Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn wouldn’t be the worst thing for a tanking team. However, there may be lingering concern about Noah’s impact on the locker room. He was last seen getting into a practice altercation with Hornacek, so the club may not want to risk further incidents along those lines.
If Noah doesn’t return to the Knicks and he’s not interested in discussing a buyout, would the club be willing to just waive him? If so, when? As we outlined in December, if the Knicks don’t mind keeping Noah’s full $18MM+ cap hit for 2018/19 on their books, waiting until after August 31 to waive and stretch the veteran could make sense. Noah’s future cap hits in that scenario would be less expensive – and would end a year earlier – than if he’s waived and stretch before the end of August. Still, either approach would involve cutting into New York’s cap space until at least 2022.
What do you think? What’s the next step for the Knicks? Assuming Noah doesn’t suddenly show a willingness to give up money in a buyout, is there any path that doesn’t involve the Knicks compromising future cap flexibility or giving up important assets to part with him?
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