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Despite optimistic updates, Nerlens Noel remains out of action for Knicks

Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks

Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks reacts after he was called for a technical foul after an altercation with Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on May 15, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

It has become a daily update and a nightly disappointment. Since training camp began Tom Thibodeau has provided optimistic injury updates on Nerlens Noel — and sometimes they has even come from Noel. But despite the possibility of a return, he has remained on the sideline.

Noel missed all four preseason games and Tuesday sat out his fourth straight regular-season game. But Thibodeau said again, he is getting close. The Knicks have termed it a sore left knee. Although the one time that he spoke since the injury, Noel said it was more a hamstring issue.

"He’s ramped up pretty good right now," Thibodeau said. "Hopefully, it will be soon. It’s when he’s ready to go. So he’s been taking some contact. He’s real close.

"He was almost back once and then he had some soreness. He had soreness in his knee [but] the hamstring is fine. And that soreness is much improved."

Game change

Thibodeau ran the defensive game plan as an assistant on Doc Rivers’ coaching staff in Boston. As the Knicks coach, he has opened up the offense this season. They have put up 49 three-point attempts per game through the first three games, the most in the NBA. And the Knicks entered Tuesday’s game third in the league at 121 points per game.

"That's called having Kemba Walker and [Evan] Fournier on your team," Rivers said. "They needed to score more. I think Thibs knew that. You self-evaluate. You look at your team every year and try to figure out what you can do better, what you can add. Watching them in the Atlanta series, it was clear offense was needed. I thought they went out and got that. Now, he's integrated them into his system. And even the guys who were here last year, now you can see that they have more freedom in shooting them as well. "

Dinner plans

When Thibodeau was out of work he visited with Rivers in Los Angeles, watching how he conducted practices and how he rested players in those sessions. But Rivers got something else out of their time together.

"I kept calling everyone, 'Please get this guy a job, so he can stop hanging around with me, making me go to dinner,’" Rivers said. "I think I gained 20 pounds in a freakin' year with Thibs."

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