GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Joakim Noah will return to the Knicks’ active roster on Monday as a 20-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs that began last season comes to an end. The veteran center will have missed the Knicks’ first 12 games of this season, including Saturday night’s home date with the Kings.
When Noah actually will see the court is another issue.
For Noah, though, just being able to watch games from the bench — if he doesn’t play — will be infinitely better than having to watch them on TV, as he did during the suspension.
“I’m not going to lie,” Noah said on Friday after practice. “It was very humbling, very tough, to not be able to be with the guys, to have to stay back and watch the games alone. That’s been tough. It’s been a long couple weeks. I’m happy we’re playing well. And I’m just happy to be back with the team.”
Noah, 32, suffered through an injury-plagued and ineffective 2016-17 season after being signed to a four-year, $72-million free-agent contract by Phil Jackson. Noah said the suspension forced him to take a look at his life, and not just on the court.
“It’s more than a learning experience,” the New York City native said. “It’s been very humbling. But it helped me also get my life in order. Just really focusing on what matters. Right now, I still feel like I have a great opportunity to be able to play at home. That’s something that I’m not going to take for granted. And it was taken away from me because of a bad decision. So right now, it’s definitely a learning experience. I’m happy that I can get back and do what I love to do.”
The Knicks are 6-5 and have mostly moved on from the Jackson era. Noah agreed there’s “definitely a different vibe” and said he just wants to be a part of it as more than just a mentor to the young Knicks.
“I think this is a team that the people in New York should be excited about,” he said. “I think that Knicks fans are hungry fans and they appreciate hard work. Last year was a tough year and there was a lot of frustration with the way we conducted ourselves and the way I conducted myself with the suspension. And not playing well. So I just want to come back and just help in any way. I think that I want to show that.”
Coach Jeff Hornacek has been happy with the center tandem of Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn, so much so that Willy Hernangomez can barely get off the bench. How (and if) Noah fits in is yet to be determined.
“All I can do is just be as ready as possible,” Noah said. “Whatever my role is, I’ll accept it.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks assigned Ron Baker and Damyean Dotson to the G League’s Westchester Knicks for Friday night’s game against Grand Rapids.