New York Knicks' Joakim Noah: 'I still have a lot of work to do'
Dec 4, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) drives against New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After his return in Sunday night’s win against the Sacramento Kings, New York KnicksJoakim Noah admitted he still has a long way to go.

The story of the New York Knicks (11-9) record without their $72 million center has been well-documented. They’re 4-0 without Joakim Noah, and he’s been ineffective during his rare time on the court.

Noah has frequently been benched in the fourth quarter and badly outplayed by his little-known backups Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez.

O’Quinn’s monster performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night sparked a debate about whether Noah should regain his position as the starter when he returned to the lineup.

Sunday’s game quickly put that debate to rest as head coach Jeff Hornacek asked Noah to match up with Kings starter DeMarcus Cousins.

The Knicks were able to grit out a tough win, but it wasn’t because of Noah. He had another rough one.

To his credit though he owned up to it. He knows he can be better.

Per Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Noah spoke about his process returning from the injury and remained positive about the future for both himself and the Knicks.

“I feel better but I still have a lot of work to do. Can’t get frustrated with the process,” he said. “Our team is definitely playing a lot better basketball right now. So just keep focusing on the positive and just keep focusing on my improvement.”

“It’s going to come… no question,” he says. He adds: “I know that I’m better than what I’m doing right now.”

Noah’s been invisible and borderline embarrassing on offense all season long. That didn’t change Sunday.

Per, he had a horrific offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions) of 92.6 in 25 minutes. He scored just 2 points in 24 minutes and bricked four free throws after the Kings twice pulled the old Hack-a-Shaq on him. The big man’s percentage from the line sunk to 24.0% in 2016-17.

Cousins bullied the former Defensive Player of the Year all night and became a real problem when he drifted out to the perimeter.

Noah might be able to get away with this kind of effort against Sacramento, but the Knicks can’t afford a game like this from their starter against a legitimate competitor. Unless Noah steps up, the O’Quinn debate will rage on. This is New York after all.

The pressure is on the $72 million man.

Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.