Storyline: Joakim Noah Injury

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Seeing Noah so effective in training camp has even been in a surprise to his coach. “Coming off those injuries, literally, I’m shocked of how well he’s played just because I didn’t think he was gonna be ready this early,” Jeff Hornacek said following practice Saturday. “I’m extremely happy with how he’s playing. He’s playing the right way. He sets great screens, he rolls hard, which opens up other things for guys if he doesn’t get it. He’s been finishing with driving layups. He’s been playing great.”

Although Noah was cleared by Knicks doctors on Monday night to resume practicing, the league has yet to weigh in. Only when it does, and approves Noah’s return to the court, can he begin serving the suspension. If he is cleared by the league before the Knicks host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, he will miss eight games this season and the first 12 of the 2017-18 campaign. “Right now, it’s just starting my suspension as soon as possible,” Noah said. “And moving on from this.”

Knicks center Joakim Noah will have surgery Monday on his left knee, putting his availability for the rest of the season in serious doubt. The oft-injured Noah will have an arthroscopic procedure to clean out cartilage from the knee. The timetable for his recovery could be as little as three weeks — or certainly as many as the six weeks that remain in the regular season. The Knicks’ decision with Noah could hinge on whether they are still in a playoff race in late March.

To his credit, the 31-year-old center, who has missed two games because of the flu and half of the preseason due to hamstring and ankle woes, wouldn’t use that injury as an excuse. “Early in the game, I sprained it,’’ Noah said. “I was able to keep playing on it and it just got a little worse. I keep getting treatment and see how I feel tonight.” Asked if it affected his jumping ability in the final period, when Kanter led the Thunder to victory with bullying play inside, Noah said, “It wasn’t too much of a factor. I was on adrenaline, playing on adrenaline. It didn’t go as we wanted. It is what it is.’’

Joakim Noah: I want to thank everybody for the love and support. Good luck to the homies in LA tonight. Stitches out. Still rockin my drop. #rockyourdrop #seered

He is an unrestricted free agent following the season and his return is in doubt as the Bulls’ roster figures to get an overhaul during the summer. Still, Noah expressed a desire to return to the Bulls. “I hope so,” he said. “Right now, I’m not trying to focus on the future. I just had season-ending surgery last week but this is all I know. I’m looking forward to see what the guys are doing and just right now it’s all about taking a step back and just focusing on getting healthy and then we’ll go from there.”

Noah acknowledged that suffering such a devastating injury with free agency looming is not an ideal situation. “It’s not easy but I know there are people out there it’s a lot harder for (so) I’m not complaining,” Noah said. “It’s all about how you bounce back. I just want to prove that I have a lot more basketball in me. It’s very humbling to go through injuries. As an athlete, the last thing you want to prepare yourself for a long season and then get hurt. But it’s part of it. It’s tough but I’ll bounce back.”

Noah will miss Thursday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is optimistic that when the schedule gets more strenuous over the next couple of weeks, he’ll have Noah ready. “He’s out tonight and then Saturday, right now, he’s 50-50 at best I’d say,” said Hoiberg, referring to Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks. “Hopefully, we’ll get him for next week for sure, back for that four-in-five-nights stretch.”
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July 16, 2018 | 9:43 pm EDT Update