With prime time here, Knicks and Noah still a step slow
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Knicks were all together again on the practice court Sunday, readying for Tuesday’s season opener. But getting ready and being ready are far different things.
With a national television stage to see the rebuilt Knicks take on the Cavs, who will receive their championship rings, the Knicks are still very much a work in progress. They didn’t play the starting five a single minute together as a unit in the six exhibition games with Derrick Rose spending most of the preseason in a courtroom in Los Angeles.
And maybe most troubling is that Joakim Noah, who arrived on a four-year, $72 million contract in the summer after struggling with injuries last year, missed much of the preseason with assorted leg injuries and admitted he’s not ready for prime time.
“Numbers don’t lie and right now I feel a step slow defensively,” Noah said. “And I have to do better. I have to do better for this ballclub. We all do.”
Despite all of the talk about the triangle offense and how the potentially explosive weapons could make the Knicks a force on that end of the court, the defense has been an issue throughout the preseason. New coach Jeff Hornacek said Saturday that, “It better get better,” but much of the load rests on Noah, who was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
But Noah has not been the same player he was in 2013-14, when he not only was voted top defensive player, but finished fourth in the NBA MVP balloting. He played just 29 games last season, starting just two after losing his starting job in preseason. He eventually shut down for the season in January and underwent shoulder surgery.
His comeback was complicated by a strained hamstring suffered in the final day of minicamp that sidelined him for the first three exhibition games and nearly two weeks of practice. The first day that he scrimmaged he suffered a slight ankle sprain.
“I mean for sure I feel like I haven’t played in a long time,” Noah said. “I just have to get my steps, get my first step back and it will come. It will come.”
“Jo just kind of got back to practicing here again about a week ago,” Hornacek said. “So he’s continuing to get in better shape. He’s in pretty good shape as it is. But his enthusiasm, his energy level, kind of inspires all of our guys when he’s out there. “I think there are probably plays (where) he’s usually all over the place. He was kind of like that in the first bit of training camp. But since he got hurt a little I think he maybe took a little step back but he’s getting it back. But we want him to kind of be the guy patrolling back there and not giving up – somebody gets beat that he’s there protecting us. Im sure he’ll get there.”
With the Cavs hyped up to defend their title, it certainly won’t be an opportunity for pacing themselves.
“It’s going to take us some time to figure this whole thing out,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “It doesn’t have to be in a week. It takes time. But I think with a point guard like Derrick, it’ll be easier for me. He’s try to find us. He will try to make plays for us and he’ll try to make the game easier for us. I think it will be pretty easy to connect with him. Just we’re going to need a little bit of time. I don’t want to put too much pressure on us that we’re going to be really good right away. It’s going to take some time.”