The New York Knicks went from having little depth at the center position at the end of last season to perhaps an overflow of depth there this season.
Enes Kanter, who was the Knicks’ main compensation for Carmelo Anthony, should play a high-usage role down low for the team, given his offensive acumen. Guillermo Hernangomez, who proved himself to be a worthy building block during his rookie season last year, should also get a lot of run. Kyle O’Quinn, who has shown an ability to fill the stat sheet in limited minutes, might also play a role.
Therefore, where does Joakim Noah fit in?
In just the second year of a massive four-year, $72 million deal, Noah will miss the first 11 games of the year due to a suspension that he was dealt last season, but once he comes back, his role might be severely limited on a rebuilding roster.
However, it seems like the former Defensive Player of the Year will accept his role as a reserve.
“That’s probably what it’s going to be,” Noah told reporters on Friday, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Right now we have a lot of talented players at my position. That’s just the reality. So it’s about being as supportive as possible, and then when my number’s called going out there and making an impact.”
Last season was an absolute disaster for Noah, who struggled on the court before undergoing knee surgery, receiving a performance-enhancing drug suspension and then undergoing shoulder surgery. Those hurdles left him where he currently is, fighting for playing time and having to prove himself as though he was a rookie.
“I’m dealing with a lot of adversity right now,” Noah said. “It’s just where the cards fall. It’s like being a rookie all over again. I have to prove myself. And I have to prove myself everyday. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge I put myself in.”
While his salary certainly will help Noah to accept his new role, he also seems to be on board to mentor younger players on the team.
“If we’re in camp right here, and a young guy says, ‘You know, I’m tired.’ I kind of just look at him like, ‘I had six surgeries,’” Noah said. “‘You’re tired but we’re out here early getting treatment just to be able to get to shootaround.’ It’s a different mentality. It was a blessing just to be able to do the whole training camp every day. So I feel like I’m in a good place. I just want them to see how I deal with my adversity and I think that’s showing the young guys stuff.”
After his suspension is over, it will be interesting to see how coach Jeff Hornacek deploys Noah. Given the fact that the team still owes him $55 million over the next three seasons, he might be directed to get him on the court by the front office.
Or, if another team is in desperate need for a defensive-oriented rebounding presence, the Knicks might be able to offload his massive contract in a trade.