Ex-President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson’s prized offseason acquisition of 2016, Joakim Noah, found little to no playing time in two seasons with New York.
New York Knicks center Joakim Noah and the team have finalized an agreement to release Noah from his contract with New York, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The team plans to stretch the 33-year-old’s contract. After a skirmish with head coach Jeff Hornacek and a leave of absence, the former Defensive Player of the Year agreed to his waiver with the Knicks, thus stretching the remaining money due from his four-year contract over the next four years.
The waive and stretch provision with Noah will leave the Knicks a $6.4M annual cap hit for three seasons starting in 2019-20.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 13, 2018
Noah gave no money back in this deal, meaning that the Knicks will be paying the embattled center through the 2021-22 season.
The Knicks needed to get their roster down to the required 15 players (plus the two two-way deals) before Monday, which is why they also waived Jeff Coby and Kadeem Allen on Saturday afternoon.
Noah signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks in July 2016. At that time, then-president Phil Jackson coveted the tough-minded and emotional center on the Knicks along with point guard Derrick Rose, whom Jackson traded for the month prior. Neither Rose nor Noah found a home in New York, with Rose entering free agency in 2017 (and signing with Cleveland) and Noah only playing in 53 games during his entire Knicks tenure.
Rumors of a heated exchange with head coach Jeff Hornacek circulated way back in January, positing that Hornacek “shoved” Noah during an argument based on Noah demanding more action on the court. While the two had to be separated, Noah has since left the team from participating in activities, including games, and was looking to be released from his hometown squad. Joakim remained away from the team until the end of the season, but New York could not find a trade partner for the center after the July moratorium and free agency.
Joakim Noah ostensibly was never part of the Knicks’ future plans following the ascension to team president by Steve Mills and the hire of general manager Scott Perry. While Mills and Perry have begun carving the roster of veterans—despite Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas’ status—signings of players like Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, and Emmanuel Mudiay point toward the goal of trying to maximize talent from former lottery picks. The addition of 2018 draft selections Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson further skew New York’s mean roster age younger, and the team seemingly doesn’t have space for the aging center Noah with esoteric Enes Kanter firmly slotted at the position. In addition to , the play of Allonzo Trier on a two-way deal will force the Knicks to make a roster decision once his 45 days with the team are up.
In many ways, the Noah situation is emblematic of New York’s previous regime. Jackson and Mills craved short-term competitiveness at the risk of longevity—alongside immediate controversy in said moves (like the Andrea Bargnani trade before them). Again, 53 total games for a $72 million man does not reach expected value. Stretching Noah’s contract is the definition of sunk cost, and instead of leaving him on a roster (and possibly amending his issues with the coaching staff considering the hire of David Fizdale), Perry and Mills have decided it’s worth it to rid the team of Joakim and bite the bullet of his massive contract. The implications of stretching Noah could come back to haunt New York if they attempt to sign a premier free agent in 2019 (like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or Jimmy Butler).