GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Joakim Noah’s days as a Knick could be numbered.
Noah remains away from the team for what the Knicks are calling “personal reasons.” They are not giving any indication when he will return.
He left the Knicks last week after reportedly getting into a shouting match with coach Jeff Hornacek. Noah was unhappy that he played only 4 minutes and 31 seconds last Tuesday against the Warriors when the Knicks were without Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn.
Yahoo Sports reported that Noah and Hornacek had a heated exchange at practice the next day in Denver. A league source confirmed that the Knicks are exploring ways to part with him.
“Stuff with Jo we’re not really going to talk about at this point,” Hornacek said after practice Monday. “Right now he’s not here with us, so I don’t really want to talk about it.”
Shortly after the report surfaced Monday, Knicks vice president of player development Craig Robinson appeared on the court and called Hornacek into a meeting. The team did not have any comment.
The Knicks would like to get out of Noah’s contract. He’s in the second year of a four-year, $72-million deal. Noah has appeared in only seven games and has been inactive 20 times. After sitting out the first 12 games of the season to complete a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, he has played 40 minutes in the team’s subsequent 38 games.
Another league source said there have been no buyout talks at this point. That certainly is an option, but it’s doubtful that Noah would give the Knicks much money back.
Trading Noah, 32, would be the Knicks’ first option, but his contract makes it difficult. If they were to find a team to take him, they likely would have to take back another bad contract.
The Knicks have not suspended Noah, and the second source indicated that it’s essentially up to the team as to when and whether he will return. Hornacek said Noah won’t be with the Knicks when they play the Nets on Tuesday night and added “we’ll see” about the subsequent two-game trip.
A two-time All-Star and former defensive player of the year with the Bulls, Noah has been the Knicks’ fourth-string center behind Enes Kanter, O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez.
If the Knicks were to deal O’Quinn, who has garnered interest around the league, by the Feb. 8 trade deadline, it could open some minutes for Noah. O’Quinn has been the Knicks’ best interior defender, a role Noah could slide into if he could stay healthy.
Noah has played only 53 games for the Knicks since former team president Phil Jackson signed him to that big deal in the summer of 2016. Noah had knee and shoulder surgery last season and also was hit with the 20-game suspension.
“When you look at our team and the stage that we’re at, it’s tough on everybody to have four guys [at center] and what they’ve done,” Hornacek said. “Everybody lends something different. So it is what it is. They’re all competitors, they all want to play and sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”