GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Joakim Noah has been waiting for this moment since he signed with the Knicks.
The native New Yorker, who has spent more time on the sideline than on the court during camp, expects to make his Knicks preseason debut Saturday night against the Celtics at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s always special to play in that building and I’ll never take it for granted,” Noah said after practice Friday.
“It’s been a hectic month, just being in and out with some knickknack injuries. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Noah said he doesn’t take playing basketball for granted after a shoulder injury kept the former Defensive Player of the Year out of 53 games last season.
Hamstring and ankle injuries have made Noah, who signed a four-year, $72-million contract, more of a spectator than an enforcer in camp. He missed the first three preseason games because of the hamstring and sat out Thursday’s practice with a sprained right ankle.
Jeff Hornacek said he wants to see how the ankle feels Saturday before determining if Noah plays. Noah said during camp that the most important thing is that he’s healthy for the Oct. 25 regular-season opener at Cleveland, but he seemed genuinely happy and relieved that he was able to go through everything Friday and practice with his new team.
“You say that because you want to stay optimistic and stay positive,” Noah said. “The truth is I want to be out there every play. The more we’re on the court together, whether it’s practice or when it counts or preseason, the better we’re going to be. This is a new group. It’s important that we spend as much time together.”
The Knicks, however, remain without starting point guard Derrick Rose. He is in Los Angeles for his sexual assault civil trial. Hornacek said he spoke to Rose and went over some things, and that the Knicks have decided against sending an assistant coach to Los Angeles to work with him on the offense.
“We talked to Derrick and kind of covered things we need to cover and at this point, we’re not going to send anybody,” Hornacek said. “We’re hoping he’s back early next week.”
It’s possible the Knicks could go the entire six-game preseason schedule without their projected starting five.
Rose appeared in only the Knicks’ first preseason game, and there’s no definitive date for his return. The Knicks have two games remaining after Saturday night on Wednesday and Thursday. Hornacek didn’t rule out Rose playing, though.
“We’re hoping it’s coming to a conclusion real soon,” Hornacek said. “Even though he’s exercising on his own, but if he lost any of the conditioning he had at training camp, he’s going to have to get it back.
“We’ll have to look at him, and if he does get back for those — the back-to-backs — maybe just playing him a little bit in both games, just try to build up [the minutes] maybe the second night.”