Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Melo Says Joakim Noah Brings Toughness Knicks Will Need to Compete With LeBron, Cavs
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Joakim Noah isn’t afraid to mix it up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers — and Carmelo Anthony thinks that’s exactly what the Knicks will need to compete with the NBA champions.
Coincidentally enough, the Knicks will open the regular season in Cleveland on Oct. 25 when the Cavs will be feted with their NBA championship rings.
“You ain’t got to worry about that with Joakim, I mean he gonna bring it,” Anthony said Wednesday after the first day of training camp at West Point, which was also Noah’s first practice with the team after he became the father of a baby girl on Tuesday.
“If you’re not on his team, you’re the enemy and I think with that mentality, that’s going to kind of trickle down to everyone else.”
James and Noah have a history of fights, altercations and beefs. Most recently in 2015, during a playoff series between the Cavs and the Bulls, James accused Noah of crossing the line by using “disrespectful” trash talk during one exchange that led to technical fouls for both players.
“I love his emotions as a competitor,” James said then. “I think the words he used to me [went] a little too far. I’m a father with three kids, you know, it got very disrespectful. I’m okay with competing against Jo. I love the competitive nature in him. We should leave it there. The disrespectful words were uncalled for.”
Noah, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, has never beaten James in the playoffs, and the Knicks haven’t either, but Noah says the goal of this group is to ultimately unseat the champs in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We’ll see, time will tell,” said the 31-year-old, 6-foot-11 Noah. “That’s definitely the goal. It’s definitely not an easy task but that’s gotta be the mindset. We all know what it is and right now it all goes through [James], it goes through that guy. And for us to get to where we want to get to, we gotta beat that guy.”
Playing in his first practice following the birth of his daughter, Noah, a New York City native, said he “really likes the vibe of this team.”
“We’re building a foundation, we got a lot of new faces but I think guys have the right mindset and that’s important,” Noah said.
Noah played in only 29 games last season due to a left shoulder injury, that ultimately required season-ending surgery.
“It was very tough,” he said. “As a basketball player, injury is as humbling as it gets. My whole life has been around basketball and when that’s taken away from you it’s very hard. Anytime I can step on the court, I’m not taking that for granted.”
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf recently said Noah was no longer a “frontline guy” due to his age and injuries, something Noah admits bothered him.
“It’s alright, he’s entitled to his opinion, you know?” Noah said. “I feel like I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me, that’s all that matters. I know I did everything I could for that organization.
“I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization and I’m just excited for that new chapter in my career.”
Noah’s debut with the Knicks was delayed by a special occasion, the birth of his first child.
“I’m real excited,” he said. “I was dealing with something beautiful. My daughter was born [Tuesday] so it was the most beautiful day of my life so I’m happy I was able to be there for that and I’m really happy to be here too.”
Anthony, meantime, says Noah brings qualities to the Knicks that they have lacked until now.
“He brings a different dynamic to the court,” he said. “Mentally, he forces you to compete at a high level every time out there on the basketball court. Everybody whether you’re the 14th, 15th man on the team or myself or Derrick [Rose] or anyone else, he pushes you to go out there and compete every play, every time. “If not, you’re going to hear about it. I think that’s something that we’ve been missing. We need it, this organization needs it. And i like it, we like it.”
As for that first meeting with the Cavs — and Noah’s first as a Knick — Anthony can’t wait.
“I mean, that’s our first game, that’s opening night, on their celebratory night, too,” he said. “I think the NBA try to give us a light setup on that one but we’ll be ready for that. I think it’s a major test for us to see where we are at as a team. I know it’s only one game opening night, but it will be a good night for us.”
MELO HOPES CAVS RE-SIGN J.R. SMITHJ.R. Smith remains a free agent, but Anthony said he hopes his former Knicks and Nuggets teammate gets a deal with the Cavs soon.
“Man, I hope so,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on over there with that. I just hope they don’t prolong the situation. He helped them win that championship. He was a major part of that team and I hope they can get something done, but if not see him somewhere else.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.