Joakim Noah out for the season, as his first season with the Knicks ends as expected

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Joakim Noah. (Getty Images)
Joakim Noah. (Getty Images)

On Monday, with the end of the New York Knicks’ 2016-17 season thankfully in sight, the team made two significant and telling announcements:

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Brandon Jennings, hoped-for triangle offense-turnaround story and one-year rental, was released from the team and the rest of his $5 million contract after a fitful season that saw the well-traveled combo guard barely take to the team. Later on Monday, the center that was destined to play for the Knicks and within Phil Jackson’s beloved triangle saw his miserable first season with the team come to an appropriate ending:

Noah’s final totals, in the first year of a four-year, $72 million deal? He averaged five points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and a combined 1.5 blocks/steals in 22 minutes a contest, spread out over 46 games (all starts). The former Chicago Bull missed 13 contests with a variety of injuries, including a sore left hamstring that has kept him out of the last six games with the Knicks.

New York, at 24-35, is four games out of even the miserable Eastern playoff bracket (Detroit, on pace for 39 wins, currently holds the last postseason seed in the conference), and it figures February is as good a time as any to end a season.

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The Knicks, for once, are in control of their own drafting destiny (the team has the league’s ninth-worst record) in the first round this year and did not have the time to not only finagle the ideal that Carmelo Anthony is a star to be coveted on the trade market during last week’s trade deadline run, but Phil Jackson-led franchise seemed in no hurry to construct a deal that would be to Anthony’s liking.

Carmelo, proud owner of a no-trade clause on a contract that runs through 2019, has given no indication that he’d liked to be traded to any club, leaving the nearly-32 year-old to spend yet another year on a club going nowhere. Derrick Rose, dealt for by Jackson last summer, also received little-to-no interest on the trade market save for a brief bit of interest from former coach and celebrated nutter Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Such is what Phil Jackson has created, in his attempts to straddle several lines in his hopes that he could create a triangle-soaked squad that would somehow compete and rebuild at the same time with Anthony and 2015 draftee Kristaps Porzingis walking uneasily in opposite directions. The additions of Rose and Noah said a great deal about Jackson’s ego and his lack of clarity when it came to honest-to-goodness scouting on his end, and the Knicks have a wasted over $28.3 million (Noah and Rose’s combined salaries in 2016-17) as a result.

(This isn’t even getting into the $5 million paid to Jennings, or whatever you think the $24.5 million spent on Carmelo Anthony’s unwanted All-Star year was worth to the team.)

All of these deals were either put to paper or acquired by Jackson, now in his third full season running the club (to no acclaim). In cobbling together the team, it’s become obvious that Jackson’s League Pass routine was dotted by habitual watching of his old squad from Chicago, yet he couldn’t be bothered to watch closely enough as Derrick Rose acted (as he has again in 2016-17) as one of the league’s worst rotation players in his final year with Chicago, or with Noah acting like a barely perceptible shade of the player that once ranked in the top five of MVP voting in 2014.

It’s fair to question whether or not Noah’s career is salvageable at this point.

He hasn’t been the same since the Chicago Bulls wrongly sloughed off whatever knee surgery he had in May, 2014 as “minor,” prior to calling him out for two-to-three months (not the going rate for “minor” knee procedures, not by a long shot) in a move that actually underestimated his recovery time by about seven months – he was hurting and clearly not the same to start 2014-15, and hasn’t been anywhere near the same player in the years since.

This continued into 2016-17, where Noah was constantly the source of New York ridicule for his offensive woes, despite his great interest in proving the doubters wrong in his first season playing back in his hometown.

With rookie Willy Hernangomez contributing an impressive initial year and Porzingis seemingly best suited for the center position in the modern NBA, Noah’s role was a constant source of frustration in the ongoing discussions between first-year coach Jeff Hornacek and the press, with Phil Jackson mostly leaving his coach alone (as he did with predecessors Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis) to answer to the media for the mess that Jackson and team owner James Dolan created in concert.

Jackson (the former Knick that wants you to believe he’s a hippie), and Dolan (the never-Knick who wants you to believe that he’s cool) are more alike than you would suspect.

Even before news of Noah’s clean-up surgery hit, Jackson’s minimal-hit, hit-piece guy in Charley Rosen was quick to offer a caveat on Joakim’s season with the center owed nearly $55.6 million between now and 2020:

JOAKIM NOAH has been plagued with injuries, and has therefore never really been in game shape. At 32, he’s certainly lost some lateral movement, but he knows how to defend and always plays with an admirable passion. Because he can establish and hold low-post position, and because he’s such a wonderful passer, Noah would thrive in the triangle.

A healthy Noah, playing in the triangle, will do much to change the negative attitude that the New York media and the Knicks fans have toward him.

“A healthy Noah.” Things will turn around once we see “a healthy Noah.” As if we’ve seen anything along those lines over the last 35 months.

Joakim Noah was not supposed to become a basketball player. He has limited hops, limited girth for his position, and an unorthodox shooting style that may have stayed hidden during Phil Jackson’s era but one that stands revealed in the modern NBA.

That didn’t stop Joakim Noah from becoming great, though.

That shooting style still left him ranked as one of the NBA’s more consistent perimeter threats for a spell during his best runs in Chicago. His defensive play at his best, that devastating mix of cerebral know-how mixed with an unrelenting competitive streak and his own gifts as a wily, 6-11 athlete, not only ranked him amongst the NBA’s elite but allowed Noah to have a place in the conversation amongst the NBA’s all-time great and versatile defenders, if only for a short spell in his peak.

Phil Jackson signed him a good three years after his peak. To a contract that will run for six years and two months past the “minor” knee surgery he suffered as a result of being run too hard and for too long by a desperate and at times uncaring Chicago Bulls coaching and front office staff:

If that feels like a too-easy, toss off, fine. The Chicago Bulls’ front office and Tom Thibodeau came to loggerheads in ways that eventually led to Thibodeau’s dismissal in 2015 after the Bulls attempted to prevent their coach from playing his players for too long, and too deep into either blowout wins or losses. However, they were still around (and quite happy) for the first few years.

And Thibodeau? This isn’t an unkind reflection. It was known by far too many that Joakim Noah shouldn’t have played as many minutes as he did (especially during blowouts, go check those tapes) under Thibs, and the coach barely relented during times both good and bad.

Phil Jackson? He went out and signed this guy after all of this. Absolutely nobody would have been shocked, last July upon hearing of Noah’s move back to New York, if you would have put money on Joakim undergoing a season-ending, old man knee surgery in seven months. Just two days after his 32nd birthday.

This should be Joakim Noah’s payoff. Making great money in his hometown, working under a team president in Phil Jackson who comes closer to any NBA dignitary in approximating not only Noah’s unorthodox two-way style on the court, but his burgeoning off-court interests and fascinating mix of intellect and extreme competitiveness that sometimes leads to doing and saying things one would later be embarrassed by.

In that, we can feel good that Joakim Noah doesn’t have to limp his way through 23 more New York Knicks games in 2016-17. We’d feel great about this, if it weren’t hurting Joakim Noah far more than anyone else to be sitting out pro basketball games.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!