Caveat no. 1: Phil Jackson has fooled me before. He selected the slim Latvian Messiah Kristaps when it appeared that he would move down in the draft to bring in a veteran and a known-quantity rookie. He hired Jeff Hornacek when all indications were that he’d make true triangle acolyte Kurt Rambis the man. The man is a master troll.
Caveat no. 2: The exploding salary cap means that salaries that previously seemed insane (SHOUTS TO THE DUDE TIMOFEY MOZGOV! YOU NEVER HAVE TO DO A LOCAL COMMERCIAL EVER AGAIN!) are simply the new normal. NBA free agency in summer 2016 is like watching someone discover the money cheat code in The Sims for the first time. $13,000 for a virtual reality espresso machine? Why not!
Caveat no. 3: At press time, the Knicks haven’t actually signed a free agent yet. The players the team is linked to, and the deals they are reportedly being offered, are just chatter in the form of anonymously sourced tweets from agents shamelessly misrepresenting the level of interest their clients are receiving. Illuminati gamesmanship in its purest form.
With all that said, if Phil signs Joakim Noah to four years of guaranteed money, I will drive to Montana, find his artisanal psilocybin mushroom patch, and tear it up with my bare hands. Then I’ll eat the mushrooms, travel to the astral plane, find his spirit animal, and kill it. I will burn his home to the ground.
It’s not about the money — a reported $72 million. As stated above, that’s essentially meaningless now. What doesn’t make sense is locking up a 31-year-old center for the long term when he has presented many of the symptoms of being washed up. He missed 53 games with a shoulder injury last season, a season in which he shot a career-low 38 percent from the floor, including 39 percent on layups. AS A 6-FOOT-11 CENTER.
Noah is rare competitor, with a fiery demeanor that inspires his teammates and engenders annoyance-bordering-on-hate in everyone else. Noah’s vision and passing ability allowed the Bulls to run the offense through him when Derrick Rose [clears throat for approximately 10 minutes] missed all but 10 games of the 2013–14 season. Noah’s creativity would be perfect for the triangle. Certainly, the Knicks’ bipolar makeup — one part unblooded beanpole, bursting with two-way, unicorn talent; one part veteran ball-stopper on the wrong side of 30; one part all-orthopedic surgery team — could use the intangible leadership that Noah can provide. But New York needs to allow for the possibility that he’ll be utilizing those amorphous talents from the bench, in street clothes, while wearing a scrunchie.
Here’s the list of centers age 30 or older who played less than 30 games in a given season. Click on it; I’ll wait. The best of the bunch, in terms of talent, is Yao Ming, who played in only five games in the 2010–11 season at age 30, before succumbing to the foot ailments that haunted his career. Nikola Pekovic has had an OK career, but played in only 12 games last season and is incompatible with future superstar Karl-Anthony Towns, so everyone expects that Minnesota will waive him/drug him and leave him in an empty field in the middle of the night. Most of the players on this list are bench guys. Special attention should be given to Sasha Kaun, who just won an NBA title with the Cavs as a 30-year-old rookie. Shouts to him.
For everyone else on this list — Darryl Dawkins, Mel Daniels, Yao, Michael Doleac, Eddy Curry (dear God), Dwayne Schintzius, the immortal Earl Barron, Primoz Brezec, etc. — with the exception of Pekovic (TBD), Kaun (LOL), and (the Knicks pray) Joakim Noah, those sub-30 game seasons mark the ostensible end of a career. It’s a list of 7-footers on the way out, ground down by the accrued weight of minutes and expectations.
Might Noah shake off the sad yoke of 7-footer injury history and have a bounce-back year? Could happen. Howard Beck, who is smart and good, recently said that Noah is rumored to be “in phenomenal shape.” Might Noah and the oft-injured Rose both have simultaneous bounce-back years? Now you’re scaring me, but I’ll allow that there might be a reality in the multiverse in which that happens. Might Noah have a bounce-back year, then continue to bounce bounce bounce back until the 2020 presidential election??? THIS DEAL COULD OSTENSIBLY KEEP NOAH IN ORANGE AND BLUE LONGER THAN MELO. Please pass the bong. No, really pass th-[wrestles bong out of your hands].
So, why, again, is Phil thinking of signing Noah to a deal that would keep him in New York, pulling down guaranteed money, until THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN TOKYO??? Who, besides the voices in Phil’s head, is EVEN BIDDING THREE YEARS???
My god. Now imagine if they sign Eric Gordon.