Storyline: Joakim Noah Free Agency

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Howard-to-Lakers unlikely

Windhorst thinks the Lakers are doing their proper due diligence, but says Howard coming back to the Purple and Gold is probably not going to happen. “I don’t think it’s a very likely marriage,” Windhorst said on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “I think the Lakers right now are doing their due diligence on players, on available centers. Joakim Noah’s another guy they’ve looked at. “Dwight Howard has been on four different teams in the last four years. The Lakers are in need of somebody who can be healthy and give them minutes and that doesn’t fit who Dwight Howard or Joakim Noah are at this point of their careers.


One of the bigger NBA names who’s still unsigned is former defensive player of the year and two-time All-Star Joakim Noah. While Noah is weighing his options, he has been training in Los Angeles and talking with Terrell Owens, who relayed his experience of playing with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals at the end of his Hall of Fame career. “I told him about the end of my career when I was with Dallas and looking to sign with another team and Buffalo came to the table,” Owens said. “That’s not the most desirable place to play football, but I didn’t allow that environment or what people said about it to deter me from going there. [Noah] might have a chance to go to Detroit, which isn’t a desirable destination, but I said be a bright spot in a not so great environment. It doesn’t matter. Just rededicate yourself and be the best basketball player you can be.”

Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace today announced that the team signed center Joakim Noah for the remainder of the season. Noah will wear #55 for the Grizzlies. Noah (6-11, 230) was named the 2013-14 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was selected to the 2013-14 All-NBA First Team and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting after setting career highs with averages of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.24 steals for the Bulls that season. His career highlights also include two consecutive NBA All-Star appearances (2013, 2014), three NBA All-Defensive honors (Second Team in 2011, First Team in 2013 and 2014) and the 2015 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

Marc Gasol has applauded the Memphis Grizzlies’ signing of Joakim Noah. In an interview with Basket-Infos, the center spoke glowingly about the French big man and underlined how well he’ll adjust to the style and culture of Memphis. Gasol: “Noah will give us experience, physical play, capability as a passer and creator, and another voice in the locker room. He’s the type of player that will adapt perfectly to our team. He plays with a lot of intensity, with a lot of passion and he places a lot of emphasis on defense. I liked [the signing] a lot. He knows how to make players around him better.”

Joakim Noah will arrive to to provide relief to Marc Gasol in the center position, and to give another veteran voice to help with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s development. But the Spanish center believes he and Noah can share minutes together. And he used a very interesting and close-to-home example: “We can play together. He already did it with Pau Gasol in Chicago and I know Pau liked sharing the floor with him. I can play like a 4 or a 5. I would like to share the floor with him at times when we want to play with a supersized five.”

Those who know Noah, his friends and workout partners, say he has chosen public silence out of principle. He’d rather work alone and try to redeem himself when he can rather than speak now or over the last nine months. While the Knicks have offered small updates on his status before their separation this weekend, Noah has only been visible through Instagram posts and the spare TMZ appearance. Noah’s absence from the team had been called a mutual one, though the team has not elaborated why an incident with its former coach would disqualify bringing him back. When asked last month why the franchise had chosen to let Noah go rather than try to bring him back and make it work, general manager Scott Perry danced around the question, saying only that they were “comfortable” with the process the Knicks and Noah’s representatives had embarked on since he left.

Here’s how the mathematics work. On Sept. 1, Noah will be deemed to have one remaining year on his pact after the current season. Hence, on that date, if waived under the stretch provision, the $19.2 million left would be stretched over three years — counting against the cap in the summers of 2019, 2020 and 2021. That amounts to about $6.5 million each year. As for the Knicks’ 2019 cap savings, instead of having $19.2 million count on the cap, the number would be $6.5 million. In exchange, the Knicks would have Noah count against the cap for an additional two summers.

Noah called Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, President Michael Reinsdorf, executive vice president John Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and other organizational members when his nine-season run with the Bulls ended. But it’s also clear the Knicks leaped to the forefront of his free-agency choices as soon as the Bulls traded close friend Derrick Rose to the Knicks on June 22. “When the Derrick trade went down, it was for a center, for Robin (Lopez),” Noah said. “So I knew that there was going to be a (Knicks) need for a center. I remember my agent telling me this team was going to be an option and this team was going to be an option. And I couldn’t even think about anything but playing for New York. My mind was already set on where I wanted to play. It made too much sense — hometown, Derrick, Phil (Jackson), just everything. For me, it’s like a dream come true.”

It was clear during an interview last week in his Chicago residence, with its sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the skyline, that leaving the Bulls in the right way was important to him. “I have no anger towards nobody,” Noah said. “If we had a couple rough years at the end, I’m just still so grateful for the opportunity the Bulls gave me. It’s like a family to me. Even though it’s a new chapter for the end of my career to be in New York, I think Chicago is always going to be a home to me. Everywhere I go in this city, it’s always love. If I’m walking in the airport, wherever I am and someone’s from Chicago, it’s never animosity or negative or why did you leave us? It’s always very appreciative. And it’s humbling. I know free agency is a business. But I feel I always show a lot of respect for this city and its people. And I get love back for it. And it feels good.”

About five years ago, Noah says that he paid a visit to Phil Jackson at the Zen Master’s Montana retreat, after Jackson had left the Lakers’ bench and was semi-retired. The trip, which was sparked by mutual friends of both Noah and Jackson, now seems to have been a hint of things to come. “My father used to make me read (Jackson’s) books when I was a kid. I hate reading books, but I read his books,” says Noah. “I had an opportunity to go to Montana and meet (Jackson). So I took the plane, went to Montana, and I knock on his door. We start talking and he goes, ‘Why are you here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ It was a great couple days. I got an opportunity to meet one of the legends and spend time with him. Life works in mysterious ways. Now we’re here.”

“I’ve been injured for the last couple years. It sucks. As an athlete, trust me, there’s nothing more I want than to be on the court. It doesn’t matter what anybody writes. At the end of the day, nobody cares about this s— more than me. I know. I’m the one putting in the work every day,” says Noah. “I’m going to be very passionate about this. And I always have been and always will. This is where I want to end my career, (play) ‘till the wheels fall off. Playing in this uniform means everything to me.”

“What a blessing. I feel like a rookie all over again,” says Noah, 31, as microphones and cameras record his every word and move during his Knicks introductory press conference, in which he sports a baseball cap with the logo “New York Made” on the front. “There’s definitely a buzz in the city. I think it’s on us to make it work. Winning in the Garden, I’m not gonna get a feeling like that anywhere else. I’m not here to just get a check and be happy. I want to be an animal. I want to make the city proud,” says Noah.

Can he be all that again after all those hard minutes played in Chicago over nine years? “After Chicago made him come off the bench to start last season before he hurt the shoulder, the Knicks are betting on his pride, to prove himself still one of the league’s premier centers,” Van Gundy said. “The length of the contract they’re talking about is scary, but if he’s healthy, you’re getting a really smart, tenacious player and as good a frontcourt passer as there is.”

Ian Begley: The Knicks are interested in Joakim Noah, but he isn’t the only big man on their radar. Another center some in the Knicks organization are high on is Timofey Mozgov, per league sources. The interest between Noah and the Knicks is strong and mutual. But Mozgov, an ex-Knick, provides an interesting alternative. With Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis on the roster, the Knicks probably won’t need a high-scoring center. Mozgov doesn’t need touches and would provide mobile rim protection and rebounding. He also compares favorably to Noah in some categories (age: Mozgov is 29, Noah is 31; recent health: Noah was limited to 29 games last season due to a left shoulder injury).

Gar Forman insisted on draft night that the Bulls have every intention to sit down with free agent Joakim Noah and discuss the future come July 1. They need not bother. A source close to the situation not only shot down a report last month that the Bulls and Noah were having early “positive dialogue’’ on coming back together, but reiterated a Sun-Times story from late May in which Noah was telling teammates that he had no trust in the direction the front office was taking the team. So chalk up Forman’s optimism to the Bulls general manager simply trying to win the press conference.

According to sources, the Wiz are locked in on making a major offer to Joakim Noah. The Wizards are said to be willing to offer Noah, coming off shoulder surgery that KO’d him in January, a full maximum contract. His deal would start at $28 million and reach around $120 million over four seasons. Yeah, it’ll be that kind of crazy money for the soon-to-be former Chicago Bull. The Wizards are prepared to go all out for the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year because they have glaring holes up front and already are anticipating having to win an intense bidding war.
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