The Joakim Noah situation and the Trey Burke hype are on our minds in this week’s edition of Monday Musings.
Knicks’ record: 22–28 on the season, 2-3 on the week
Upcoming schedule: 1/30 vs. Nets (18-32), 1/31 @ Celtics (35-15), 2/2 @ Bucks (26-22)
As the All-Star break approaches, New York’s playoff chances are hanging by a thread, and they’ll look to pick up some much needed momentum against the bottom-feeder Nets before taking on the conference-leading, albeit slumping, Celtics in Boston.
Let’s touch on the state of the Knicks as they head into that crucial stretch.
1. The exorcism of Joakim Noah
Sources: After heated verbal exchange in practice between Joakim Noah and coach Jeff Hornacek last week, the Knicks are exploring avenues to part with Noah. He has two years remaining on the four-year, $72M deal he signed in 2016.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 29, 2018
Two years ago, Phil Jackson shelled out an objectively dumb contract for Joakim Noah. Why? Literally no one knows. My theory is that when Noah showed up unannounced to Jackson’s house in Montana, he brought some wax with him and after three dabs with the former Knicks’ president, Noah convinced Jackson to bust out the pen and paper.
The signing didn’t make any sense at the time beyond “the Knicks have too much cap space and need to fill it up,” which has never actually made any sense in the history of NBA free agency. Noah, a two-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year, had definite value, but after seriously concerning left knee issues, that value should never have come close to $72 million spread over four years. Not only has he barely seen the court, but he’s barely even suited up for the Knicks. Shocker.
It looks like now, after Noah reportedly tried to fight coach Jeff Hornacek during practice, the Knicks would like to part ways with him. His contract is un-tradeable, so a buyout or move could be imminent.
2. Enes Kanter going full Joel Embiid on Twitter
After Conor McGregor’s rapid ascent in the UFC, there was a market trend in other MMA fighters following suit to push their brand and pursue bigger fights. I feel like Joel Embiid is leading that same charge in the NBA.
Just look at Enes “Hold that L” Kanter, popping off on Twitter:
Hold that “L” kid.
Talk to me nice or don’t talk to me at all… pic.twitter.com/tS3mLgClTA
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 27, 2018
Kanter posted this after the Knicks pulled off a much-needed win over the Suns last Friday. The irony of the Knicks holding a lot of “L”‘s over the course of the past few seasons is apparently lost on Kanter.
This is not unusual for Kanter. He threw shots at LeBron James after the Cavs lost 148–124 to the Thunder:
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 20, 2018
He wasn’t even a part of that game! That’s the magic of Kanter, constantly in other people’s business for no reason whatsoever. He’s the gadfly of the NBA, and I think it’s hilarious. Keep doing you, Enes. People are laughing with you and at you.
3. Trading Courtney Lee?
The Knicks front office will take a cold, hard look at this roster with the trade deadline (Feb. 8) on the horizon. If they decide the team can make the playoffs, they might just ride this group until the end of the season without making any big changes. If they don’t think the Knicks have it in them, they might ship some veterans out while they still have trade value for better assets. Hell, if they think this team will be an eighth seed at best and flame out of the postseason year after year, the most likely scenario in my opinion, they might go the latter route anyway.
So who’s got value on this team? They’re not moving Frank Ntilikina or Kristaps Porzingis, obviously. Michael Beasley might be a sell-high option, but my gut feeling is that the NBA isn’t convinced of his success this season, which has tailed off significantly. Kyle O’Quinn is playing really well, but has caused a logjam in the frontcourt, robbing Willy Hernangómez of court time. O’Quinn’s only 27, though, and is a vital cog in their rotation.
My bet is that Courtney Lee will find himself on the trading block, if he isn’t already.
Lee is 32 years old, and is owed $25 million over the next two years, which makes things tricky if the Knicks want to move him. But he’s a known commodity that contenders need: a 3-and-D wing that can plug into just about any NBA offense.
4. Pump the brakes on Trey Burke
Trey Burke has looked solid since the Knicks called him up from their Westchester G League team. His spotty vision on offense has been buoyed by hot shooting, but he has outperformed expectations as an on-ball defender, especially considering his stature at (a generous) 6’1″:
But anyone thinking the Knicks should dump Jarrett Jack for him is jumping the shark.
Most Knicks fans have agreed Burke shouldn’t cut into Ntilikina’s minutes but many are clamoring for the Knicks to move Jack at the deadline for Burke. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with them, since Jack’s upside is way lower at this point in his career, but good god, Burke’s played, like, three games. Jack is a consistent contributor that constantly provides those shifty veteran plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet. Let’s wait and see where Burke’s form settles before tossing Jack in the trash.
Still, this is a good problem for the Knicks to have. Burke’s emergence offers their backcourt a lot more flexibility as far as keeping Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee fresh.
5. KP moving the ball more
After a bizarre month in which Porzingis looked tired every game (stop playing him 40 minutes every night, Jeff), and played a solo rendition of the 2006 Suns’ “Seven Seconds of Less” whenever he touched the ball, he seems to have bought back into team offense.
He’s shifted away from incessantly hoisting the rock, and looks keen on getting his teammates involved more. Still, KP has just four assists over the past five games. At his size, 7’3″, where he can easily pass over defenders, he should be a much better facilitator.