Joakim Noah was the emotional leader of the Chicago Bulls, and now he’s trying to carve out that same role with the Knicks. He got off to a good start Saturday night.
In his first home game, the big man who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen got the Madison Square Garden crowd fired up with his defense and his passing. He jawed at Zach Randolph, pounded his chest a couple of times and was serenaded with chants of “Joa-kim No-ah” in the Knicks’ 111-104 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s really special to play at home, just trying to stay in the moment, because it’s real easy to get caught up in everything that’s going on around you,” Noah said. “This building means so much to me. There were a couple of times, it was very emotional for me. I was very nervous. But it was the best, it was the best feeling.”
Noah, who was scoreless in the Knicks’ season-opening loss in Cleveland, finished with 10 rebounds, seven assists and six points before fouling out. He also suffered a left ear contusion and was treated with tissue glue, the Knicks said.
“Game one in the Garden, stitched up,” Noah said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Growing up here, I’ve been to this building for a lot of games as a fan. So just to be able to wear this jersey is more than special to me. I just want to be able to be part of something special.”
Rose still learning
After missing more than two weeks for his sexual assault civil trial, Derrick Rose still is playing catch-up with the offense, but Jeff Hornacek joked that even the guys who were present don’t know it.
“I think he’s starting to see some of the things that we’re doing,” he said. “Does he know all of our stuff? I’m not sure all of our guys know all of our stuff. But he’s getting better and we have total faith that he’s going to pick it up pretty soon.”
Phil watches ceremony
The Knicks celebrated their 70th anniversary and introduced a number of former players, but team president Phil Jackson wasn’t among them. Jackson, who was part of the Knicks’ only two NBA championship teams, was in his usual seat in the stands for the game.
Family members of the late Red Holzman, Dave DeBusschere, Dick McGuire and Carl Braun joined Cal Ramsey, Larry Johnson, Bernard King, Kurt Thomas, John Starks, Dick Barnett, Earl Monroe, Allan Houston, Willis Reed and Walt Frazier for the halftime ceremony.
Zach handled with care
Former Knick Randolph accepted his demotion from a starter to a sub after first-year coach David Fizdale met with him and laid out his plans. “I didn’t beat around the bush,” Fizdale said. “I was very upfront with him and gave him the reasons why it’s better for him and better for our team. I did it in a respectful way, the way you should treat a two-time All-Star. But at the same time, he knew my agenda is the team.”