New York Knicks: Jeff Hornacek, Carmelo Anthony defend Joakim Noah after another benching
December 15, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks‘ Joakim Noah played just 11 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Nuggets. He was benched in the third quarter and didn’t return.

The rapid decline in Joakim Noah‘s skill level has been almost unbelievable to watch. The New York Knicks gave their starting center the now famous amount of $72 million to lead their defense.

Instead, his playing time has been sporadic (21.2 minutes per game) and been a hindrance on offense (4.4 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting).

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Things didn’t get any better for him on Saturday in Denver. Noah logged just 11 minutes, scored 2 points, and was benched in the fourth quarter for the younger Willy Hernangomez.

Per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, Jeff Hornacek doesn’t think the team’s performance is on their much-maligned big man.

“We’re not getting off the great starts. That’s not on Jo. We’re trying to find the right combination to get us going,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We like his energy, we like what he can do that way. So the time will come, but there are other times where we think, ‘You know what? Willy had energy, he didn’t look like he was tired at all. So we went with him.”

Per Bondy, Noah hasn’t played more than 30 minutes since Nov. 12, against Toronto. He grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds but was 2 of 9 from the field and notched just 4 points.

New York Knicks

As hard as Noah’s season has been, his coach says he’s still not considering a change to the starting lineup.

“There is some concern with the starts we’re getting off to even when Derrick (Rose) is here. We’re giving up a lot of points in the first quarters,” the coach said. “So I don’t think we’re at that point (of changing the starting lineup) or panic time there. But that’s something we keep an eye on.”

Carmelo Anthony came to Noah’s defense after the game.

“He can be frustrating for him not knowing — I don’t want to say not knowing what to do out there — but still figuring out his niche and his role on this team, whereas before on other teams he knew exactly what was his role,” Anthony said. “He was the anchor on the defense. He was the pick-and-roll guy. He was the guy on the top of the key who was making the passes. It’s a little bit different for him now. I think it’s just an adjustment and we have to keep helping him out with that.

“I think him (figuring out his role) and us helping to figure it out is important, figure out what production he’s going to bring out there other than getting out there and second-guessing everything. Just go out there and play, rebound and defend. He knows. He’s been doing it for a long time.”

Noah and the Knicks will next take on the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m. ET.

 NEXT: New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony admits team ‘lacked effort’ against Nuggets 

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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.