Joakim Noah believes the Knicks can make a playoff run and doesn’t think management should be thinking about rebuilding yet.
“We’re not there right now,” Noah said before a 121-107 loss to the visiting Lakers on Monday night that dropped the Knicks to 22-31. “We’re a team that we’ve got to stay in the moment, got to stay focused.”
Noah would appear to be one of the safe players if team president Phil Jackson decides to overhaul the roster before the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Noah signed a four-year, $72-million contract and has underperformed. It would be difficult to move him even if the Knicks tried.
It’s no secret, though, that Carmelo Anthony is being shopped. If he agrees to waive his no-trade clause and is moved, it would signal that the Knicks are rebuilding. But Noah doesn’t want to see that happen. “I think Melo’s a great teammate,” he said. “He cares about his guys. He’s somebody who is definitely going through a lot right now, a lot of rumors. New York is a crazy place to play basketball. I know he loves it here. Just staying in the moment — we’re here for him.”
Noah missed Monday night’s game with a sore left hamstring. He injured it Saturday night and said it’s “more sore” now. He said it’s similar to the hamstring issue that he had in the preseason that kept him out of four games.
Kyle O’Quinn started in his place against the Lakers.
“I’m taking it day by day,” Noah said. “Usually when you have hamstring things like this, it gets worse, it gets more sore for a couple of days, then it gets better. As soon as I can, I’ll get back out there.”
Jeff Hornacek keeps talking about wanting to see how the Knicks do with their regular rotation healthy. Derrick Rose returned Monday night after missing four games with a sprained left ankle. Now Noah is out for the time being.
Noah, however, remains optimistic about the long-term future of this group if it stays together.
“I think our team is more than capable,’’ he said. “We have a lot of capable players here. I believe that this team can make a run.”
Phil a mentor to Walton
Lakers coach Luke Walton was looking forward to speaking to Jackson in person. The two have talked on the phone, with Jackson trying to help his former player navigate through his first full season as a head coach. Walton served as acting coach of the Warriors last season when Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery.
“It’s great,” Walton said. “Especially as a young coach, we’re struggling to win games. There are some things that I think we’re doing right, and if I can call Phil and get his opinion or his thoughts on something, it’s a pretty reassuring thing if he agrees or gives you advice on something.
“I got all the respect in the world for Phil from my side of it,” Walton said. “There’s nothing awkward at all. I have no problem reaching out to him.”