Much is still unknown about what happened between Joakim Noah and Jeff Hornacek. While Noah has been exiled from the team, the league is watching to see how the New York Knicks’ front office handles an already awkward situation.
When it comes to drama, the New York Knicks, whether they’re relevant or not in the standings, always seem to be the equivalent of a daytime TV soap opera. Jeff Hornacek and Joakim Noah’s current feud is just the latest installment in the drama.
Now, nothing will top last season’s epic drama including, the Carmelo Anthony – Phil Jackson feud, James Dolan temporarily banning Charles Oakley from Madison Square Garden, and Derrick Rose going MIA from the team.
Yet, even in a lottery-bound season, the Knicks continue to showcase dysfunction in ways that, at some point, should be documented in a highlight video or some type of “how not to” manual.
This brings us to the current quarrel between management/coaching staff and player which features Noah and Hornacek.
Earlier this season, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that Noah had left the Knicks prior to a road game against the Golden State Warriors.
— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) January 25, 2018
At the time, although it was clear that Noah and Hornacek were not on the same page, at least Hornacek’s tone was neutral.
Following a blowout loss to the Warriors, Hornacek told Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“We’re not going to comment on that stuff. Personal reasons, he won’t be with us for a couple of games. He works hard to keep himself in shape. He’s professional that way. It’s always tough when you want to play.’’
The problem is this, Noah is completing the second year of a four year $72 million contract. Per Spotrac.com, Noah is still owed $18,530,000 in 2018-2019 and 19,295,000 in 2019-2020.
The Knicks were not able to find a trade partner prior to the deadline, thus they are stuck with Noah on the roster for the rest of this season.
To add to this already awkward situation, recent reports surfaced of Hornacek shoving Noah after an argument at practice. As per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Noah was essentially banished from the team, and Hornacek’s tone was very different when questioned about the veteran center.
“We’ve moved on. He’s ready to move on and maybe have an opportunity somewhere else.”
This season has been hot with controversy regarding player relations with referees and specifically with the administering of technical fouls. In short, the power dynamic between players and any other occupational position within the NBA has always had some type of contentious history. To some extent, this can be expected within the landscape of professional sports.
As a result, players, and primarily free agents will always prioritize organizations that can mediate and promote positive relationships between players and coaching staff/management at any level.
Say what you want about Noah, but he is respected around the league. And while he hasn’t earned even half his contract in regards to on-court production, there is no reason for Hornacek to put his hands on him for any reason.
I can understand that, within, a team full of hyper-competitive athletes and coaches, things will get heated and there will be conflict. However, if Noah had made the first contact, I’m sure that there would be some type of punishment handed down.
If the story is accurate, then the same must be true for Hornacek. Whether it is fine or suspension, there needs to be some type of consequence. Players and the rest of the league need to see that the Knicks are consistent in discipline regardless of the person who has committed an infraction.
Outside of a fractured coach/player relationship, since Noah has left the Knicks, his trade value, which was already at ground zero, will have no hopes of resuscitation, unless he plays again.
Former New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets General Manager Bobby Marks also weighed in on the situation:
Re: the $37M left on the contract of Joakim Noah. Same situation played out in 2003 with Dikembe Mutombo and New Jersey. Mutombo gave back $10M of the $37M owed but earned it back in his next contract (with NYK). This is the case study that New York should follow.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 21, 2018
This should be the plan. Noah needs to come back to the team so that they can build his trade value at some level. Hopefully, Noah will take less money in a buy-out and both sides can actually move on from each other.
As reported by Ian Begley of ESPN, March 1st is the date where Noah can be waived by the Knicks and will still be able to join a playoff team. If he is waived after March 1st, he won’t be able to see postseason basketball.
Clearly, this situation needs some type of quick resolution. As this March 1st deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see if the Knicks have any leverage to make Noah takes less money if he really wants to join a contender this season.
Or Will Noah sit tight, count his checks, and wait until the Knicks bring him back to the team? Either way, this is the Knicks, the drama will be here, and for the foreseeable future, so will Noah’s contract.