Joakim Noah may have battled through the toughest stretch of his professional career the past two seasons, but that doesn't mean the Knicks won't give him a chance to return to his former glory.
The nine-year veteran will leave the franchise that drafted him to sign a massive four-year, $72 million contract with his hometown team, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. While trying to reinvigorate his career, he will also be counted on to help Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis lead New York to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
The two-time All-Star has been a shell of his former self in the past two years. He shot a then-career low 44.5 percent from the field in 2014-15 before cratering in 2016, thanks in part to a shoulder injury.
Joakim Noah's shoulder injured again. Goes right to the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/A6svS9fdaW— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 16, 2016
However, Noah's star was fading in Chicago well before injury cut his season short. He started only a pair of games last season, recording his fewest minutes per contest since his rookie year and setting career lows in field goal percentage (.383), points per game (4.3), free throws attempted (1.6) and free throw percentage (.489). He was phased out of coach Fred Hoiberg's system and ceded minutes to players like Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis early in the year.
It was clear early in the summer that Noah was going to the leave the Bulls. He complained about his minutes and mentioned that he was going to "consider every offer on the table" in an interview with Sportando that was published on June 12. Yet he made up his mind to join the Knicks early in the process, with reports before free agency even started stating that New York was going to be his choice. The fact that he got a $72 million contract surely played a part, as not many were expecting him to command such a high salary. But with the salary cap exploding, perhaps those people shouldn't have been surprised.
Noah is going back to his hometown, where he will be able to reunite with Derrick Rose, recently traded to the Knicks. He should be the starting center on opening night, as Robin Lopez was part of the package New York sent back to Chicago for the former league MVP. His presence should allow Kristaps Porzingis to continue to play power forward for long stretches instead of having to battle bigger players, and his passing should make him a good fit for the triangle offense.
At his best, Noah is an unrelenting rebounder, rim protector, and offensive facilitator. He's only two years removed from an All-Star season in which he averaged 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists over an 80-game span, finished fourth in the MVP vote, and was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
While his scoring never really progressed beyond "ugly," Noah was an important player for a Bulls team that vied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade. At 31 years old, he'll look to recreate the magic that made him so valuable. This time, it will be in New York.