SAN ANTONIO — The losses keep on coming for the Knicks.
Center Joakim Noah has been suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug program, the league announced Saturday. The NBA said he tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033.
Noah’s suspension will begin with the first game that he’s physically able to play, the league said. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month and his return date is unclear.
Because the Knicks’ last game is April 12, the suspension would preclude Noah from seeing any more court time this season.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said Noah has been working toward playing again this season and hopes he’s cleared so the suspension can start sooner. “I can’t really comment much on it except for the fact that I thought we would get him here toward the end of the season,” he said before the Knicks played the Spurs on Saturday night. “He was working to get back, get some games. Obviously that won’t happen, dealing with that situation. Hopefully the doctors can get him cleared and maybe some of those games come off this year.”
After the Spurs matchup, the Knicks have nine games remaining. Hornacek said Noah has been doing some cardiovascular work but hasn’t graduated to doing any on-the-court activities.
It’s been a disappointing season for Noah, whose signing looks even worse now. The Knicks gave him a four-year, $72-million contract last summer to be a leader and defensive anchor, but he never was that player. He suffered nagging injuries throughout the season before requiring surgery on his left knee to remove a loose particle Feb. 27. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games.
“I’m sure it’s been just like all of us a frustrating year,” Hornacek said. “He’s had a lot of minor things with the hamstring and the knee. He was never able to get going. It started in training camp. It’s been frustrating for him and for all of us this year.”
Hornacek said the Knicks still will try to get Noah back this season so he can begin serving the suspension. Either way, he will serve more than half of the games of the suspension next season, if not all of them. If it’s all 20 next season, it could impact some of the moves the Knicks make this season. But they have Kristaps Porzingis and rookie Willy Hernangomez to play center.
“We’ll kind of approach that when it happens,” Hornacek said. “It’s something you have to consider going into the year if it’s 20 games. I shouldn’t comment on the actual rules. I’m not sure what they are. But I’m sure he can practice with us, go through exhibition and do all that stuff. It will be something we have to deal with.”
The NBA Players Association released a statement saying Noah “did not intentionally or knowingly violate any policy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement” and “we believe this isolated incident was a regrettable mistake.”
Under the new CBA, which takes effect July 1, Noah could have contested the suspension because it was an “unintentional ingestion.” But because that clause does not appear in the current CBA, the union said it won’t appeal it. “Joakim has offered his deepest apologies for this infraction, and neither he nor the NBPA will pursue an appeal,” the statement said.
Noah will forfeit between $2 million and $3 million in salary because of the suspension. The wide gap is because the formula in the new CBA for determining lost pay changes and is less taxing on the player.
Noah hasn’t traveled with the Knicks since undergoing the surgery. Derrick Rose, who played with Noah with the Bulls, reached out to him to see how he’s doing.
“That’s my brother more than anything,” Rose said. “I’m with him through the good, the bad and the ugly. And I think the franchise is, too. But if anything, I want him to be at peace.
“He’s all right. It’s just a tough time for him. But he got loved ones around him. And I just told him if he needs anything from my end, just let me know . . . There’s nothing you can do about it now but just take it and ride with it.”
Rose has had multiple knee surgeries, and based on that experience, he wasn’t expecting Noah to return this season.
“I didn’t think so just knowing how tricky knee injuries are,” he said. “I was going through rehab and just trying to get comfortable on the court while you’re playing the way that you want to play. I didn’t think he was coming back, but that’s my personal opinion.”