Joakim Noah was inactive again Wednesday night, but he got his most game action of the season earlier in the day playing in the G League.
Noah was assigned to Knicks’ minor league team and had nine points, five rebounds, four assists and a block in 23 minutes in Westchester’s loss to the Maine Red Claws in a game that began at 11 a.m.
Players are often sent down to get some work that they’re not getting for the main team. It’s rare that a former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year is sent down, though.
By rule, for players with more than three years of NBA experience, the player and the NBA has to consent to the assignment. Noah did, Jeff Hornacek said, after Craig Robinson, the Knicks vice president of player development and G League operation, approached the 11th-year center about it last week. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72-million contract in the summer of 2016, has played in just one game this season, totaling three minutes.
“Craig brought it up,” Hornacek said. “Jo said, ‘Okay. I don’t mind that to get some time, maybe get some contact with somebody besides in practice.’ I was happy that Jo did that. He’s kind of setting the tone that, ‘Hey, you can go down there and get your game going, tune yourself up.’ I think he had a great experience with it playing with those guys.”
Damyean Dotson also was sent down and then recalled. He scored 23.
Noah missed the Knicks’ first 12 games while serving the remainder of his 20-game ban from last season for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug policy. Noah was inactive for the next seven games before he was active and played Monday night.
Hornacek has found a center rotation that has worked with Enes Kanter starting and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench. Kanter returned Wednesday night after a three-game absence with back spasms.
Second-year center Willy Hernangomez was considered a cornerstone player, but he’s played sparingly and is also a candidate to be sent to the G League at some point.
“I don’t think we’ve discussed that so far,” Hornacek said. “As we move forward with Enes and Kyle and maybe even Jo occasionally we’re going to have to figure that out. I don’t know if we can always dress four bigs. But that’s not now.”
Ntilikina hurts ankle again
Frank Ntilikina missed the game because of a sprained left ankle that he suffered during Tuesday’s practice. It’s the same ankle the rookie point guard sprained earlier in the season that kept him out of two games. But Ntilikina said it’s not as bad. The Knicks don’t play again until Sunday afternoon. Ntilikina believes he will be able to play then.
“I think it’s going to be fine,” he said. “I’ll just fight through it and be ready for Sunday.”