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NEW YORK CITY – The New York Knicks have to make a roster decision at some point this week.
Joakim Noah will return from his 20-game suspension for taking a banned substance on Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. New York has 15 players on guaranteed contracts, so the club needs to create a roster spot to make room for Noah. That can happen via trade or the release of a player.
Clearly, the organization can’t waive point guard Jarrett Jack to make room for Noah. The Knicks are 5-1 since Jack was moved into the starting lineup on Oct. 27.
Waiving a player (and eating the guaranteed money) isn’t ideal for New York. Trading two players for one or dealing one player for a draft pick is probably the Knicks’ best option.
To that end, the club has contacted teams recently to gauge interest in forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, opposing executives told ESPN. The interest level in Kuzminskas, who hasn’t been part of the Knicks’ rotation this season, is unclear. It’s worth noting that Kuzminskas, 28, was productive when given minutes last season (he averaged 6.0 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 15 minutes per game) and that he had a strong showing for Lithuania in the European Championships.
If New York doesn’t find a deal it likes involving Kuzminskas, Ramon Sessions would seem to be a likely candidate to be waived. Sessions, whose contract is fully guaranteed for the veteran’s minimum, hasn’t played since he was replaced by Jack in the fourth game of the season.
Of course, trading Noah, who has three years remaining on a four-year, $72 million contract, is an option, though a highly unlikely one. New York has made Noah available in conversations with several teams since the end of last season, per league sources, but hasn’t found a suitable deal.
Noah, 32, averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in 46 games for the Knicks. He missed time due to several injuries and underwent knee surgery midway through the season.
Noah, who has been mentoring young Knicks big men during his suspension, did an extensive interview over the summer with “The Truth Barrel” podcast, in which he discussed losing his confidence at times last season. It was a fascinating interview from a player who doesn’t often discuss matters such as that in detail with local reporters.
It is unclear if Noah will be part of the Knicks’ rotation when he returns. Coach Jeff Hornacek has started Enes Kanter at center and played Kyle O’Quinn behind Kanter. Second-year big man Willy Hernangomez has been mostly out of the rotation.
By: Ian Begley/ESPN