Joakim Noah is (probably) a New York Knick:
A photo posted by Joakim Noah (@stickity13) on Jul 1, 2016 at 12:07pm PDT
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The spirit of Chicago’s 2010-11 run is alive and well in New York, with the Knicks being led by a former Chicago coach that was chased out of that particular city in 1998.
Noah grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, and on the surface he appears to be the perfect prince for Phil Jackson’s prized triangle offense. Joakim doesn’t look to score, he adores passing from both the high and low post, and he even takes most of his shots with his left hand. Knicks president Phil Jackson, despite his mother’s attempts to change this, is left-handed.
Noah, even in a diminished state, also plays spectacular defense. He grew up watching not just Patrick Ewing, but Charles Oakley, then Marcus Camby and probably Buck Williams for two seasons as they trod upon the Madison Square Garden orange – men that didn’t look to swat away shots or stylishly grab every rebound available, but menace from an appropriate distance prior to forcing you into a 40 percent shooting night from the floor.
Joakim, at a reported four years and $72 million, still has that menace in him. Chicago’s defense fell flat last season when he was lost for the year due to a shoulder separation during the winter. In a league that now values shouting down shooters over lunging at every shot attempt or pulling in fantasy league-worthy heaps of rebounds Noah is your man.
The trick is, though, for how long?
Joakim turned 31 in February, and though this current deal won’t even align with the same percentage that he counted against Chicago’s salary cap last season, the Knicks will be paying him until he’s 34. He shot below 40 percent last season and turned in Kirk Hinrich-styled numbers in terms of shooting percentages around the rim. What once were fears about his ability to nail that screwball-styled jumper of his from 18-feet have now turned into worries about his ability to convert on layups.
This is Chicago’s fault. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau played him far too many minutes for too many years, and Noah hasn’t looked like himself since the team announced he underwent “minor” surgery in May of 2014. As with Rose, Noah went from MVP consideration to afterthought in a 24-month span. As isn’t the case with Rose, the fall cannot be blamed on a pair of freak injuries.
The question here is if Phil Jackson actually cares about any of this.
Joakim Noah, taking only a minimal amount of shots per game, could be Jackson’s ideal. Phil seemed to betray his triple post-adherence in dealing for a ball dominant point guard in Jose Calderon and retaining a shot-happy star in Carmelo Anthony during his first year on the job, and he only doubled-down on that in trading for Rose: Derrick cannot shoot, he’s useless (post-surgeries) after giving the ball up early in an offensive possession (as the triangle demands), and he remains one of the league’s worst defenders at his position.
Noah is the opposite. He’s constantly screening, constantly moving, constantly providing productive talk, and forever looking to make the extra pass. This brother is free. His fourth-place MVP vote in 2014 was earned by leading Chicago’s offense as much as it was by barking out orders on the other end while leading the league in Defensive Win Shares. He aligns closely with Pau Gasol, who made Jackson’s life tenable for years. He sees the things Jackson sees.
This isn’t about long hair or taking in one of the Allman Bros. shows at the Beacon (free ducats from Azoff, ‘natch) with Uncle Phil. For whatever cross purposes Phil Jackson betrayed in order to talk himself into thinking Carmelo Anthony can act as the perfect pinch post player, or even dealing with the Chicago Bulls in order to secure a ball-dominant guy in Rose, Jackson is going to go out as Knick president his way. It’s all very baby boomer-ish and obvious, but sometimes these things align in a good way.
It’s a way that brings Joakim Noah home. Yes, the money is there and, yes, Knick fans may hate the contract even by 2017-18, when the cap is at $110 million. That’s all for Twitter to handle.
What is going to matter is that the Knicks will have a gangly, skinny pivotman that can’t score and only shoots with his left hand that will keep the punters at MSG happy while he’s doing absolutely everything he can on both ends of the court. Someone that will get the crowd going during second quarters. Someone that will make the pass that leads to the pass. Things that Knick fans deserve. “Action Joakim.”
Joakim Noah always thought of himself as a New York Knick. From afar, Phil Jackson always saw a lot of himself in Joakim Noah. At whatever cost, this makes too much sense.
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