When the Knicks introduce the 2018-19 squad at Media Day on Monday afternoon, one player who won’t be there is Joakim Noah.
The Knicks reportedly are on the verge of completing a buyout with Noah, who has been on the outs with the organization and has kept away since a dispute with since-fired coach Jeff Hornacek in January of last season. The center will agree to give back some of the remaining $37.8 million due to him over the next two seasons and the Knicks will waive and stretch his contract.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Sunday morning that the two sides were closing in on an agreement to part ways. A Knicks official said there was no update regarding Noah’s status yet, and Noah’s agent, Bill Duffy, did not immediately respond.
The deal, which the two sides have been working on throughout the summer, took a step forward when Sept. 1 arrived and took the current season’s salary out of the mix for the stretch — allowing the Knicks to stretch only his 2019-20 salary over three years (rather than the entire $37.8 million over five years).
If Noah does not give back any salary, the hit would be approximately $6.2 million over each of the next three years. The only advantage to the Knicks making the move now, aside from cutting ties with the past, would be if Noah agrees to a buyout and reduces the cap hit to come over those next three years.
“The situation with Joakim is pretty much the same,” Knicks general manager Scott Perry said Thursday. “Nothing has changed other than we’re in constant communication with his representation. Training camp is a few days off. The hope is we can come to a resolution that is both advantageous to Joakim and the Knicks. That’s where it is.”
The decision was a strange one for the Knicks in that they had to measure the salary savings versus the possibility of holding out for another year and trying to bring him back into the fold. Could the Knicks have gotten Noah, healthy again, to become a useful enough piece to find a team willing to take him in a trade? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Noah is a shadow of the player he was in 2013-14, when he was a first-team All-NBA player and finished fourth in MVP balloting. Injuries, age and even style of play have diminished his value. Last season, he played only seven games and 40 minutes for the Knicks, with his last appearance coming Jan. 23, when his troubles with Hornacek went public. But with a team not contending now, sitting on Noah only takes up a spot at the end of the roster.
The Knicks have a new coach in David Fizdale and are determined to turn the page on the struggles of their recent history. While they are not expected to contend this season with a youthful roster and Kristaps Porzingis still rehabbing a torn ACL, they are optimistic that they can create a culture far different from the one that has stained the franchise in recent years.
If Noah was not going to be content to play behind Enes Kanter -- and possibly rookie Mitchell Robinson -- then having him on the roster threatened the same sort of dysfunction that came to a head when Noah and Hornacek screamed at each other on the bench in a game at Golden State.
“I think we’re comfortable with how we’ve gone through the process,” Perry said of Noah on Thursday. “He’s comfortable. His representation is comfortable. Once that changes, we’ll update you on that, but we’re comfortable with how the whole process and situation is going.”
The Knicks have spoken openly about the free-agent market next summer and their plan to build with youth to that point and then try to lure a star. Even if Noah did not give back any salary right now, the Knicks would save more than $12 million in cap space for next summer. The one thing the Knicks have been clear about is that they are not trading away draft picks, so attaching one to Noah’s contract to make a trade palatable, as the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Carmelo Anthony, was not going to happen.