Joakim Noah has completed his 20-game NBA suspension for a PED-violation that resulted in him missing 10 games last season and 10 games this season. This debacle literally added insult to injury, seeing how Noah was hobbled for a good portion of his first stint with the NY Knicks and in an attempt to speed up that recovery, Noah had to deal with the public finger-pointing of taking a banned substance.
In response to the investigation and ensuing suspension, Noah had this to say on the matter:
“I wanted to do something to help myself, help my body and like I said it backfired on me,” Noah told reporters. “I tried to take the right measures when I was taking the supplements and it wasn’t enough.”
Clearly, Noah felt pressures from all different angles, including the New York media, social media, and any other form of media you want to insert, to ‘live up’ to his four year, $72 million contract. However, the narrative centered largely on the ‘disappointment’ of Noah’s first season with the Knicks which is a bit unwarranted.
Noah’s mini-journey that landed him in New York began with a tumultuous 2015-16 Bulls season that was a precursor for the chaos he's endured thus far in NY. The Bulls began that campaign with the firing of Tom Thibodeau and the insertion of unseasoned Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg proceeded to bench Noah for the inexperienced Nikola Mirotic, based on the awkward roster construction the front office executed with the signing of Pau Gasol.
It was evident that pairing Gasol and Noah together wasn't an optimal combination; Hoiberg went on record saying it was Noah who broached the idea of coming off the bench. Noah was subsequently asked if he asked to come off the bench, and with a quick response, said ‘No’.
Noah only played 17 minutes the opening night of that season against the Cavaliers, which clearly threw off his rhythm with a stat line of 0 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. The rest of the season included rumors of chemistry issues (including the emergence of Jimmy Butler as a bonafide star, which apparently ruffled some feathers in the locker room), and a ton of DNPs for Noah. Joakim ended up playing 29 total games that season (and starting only 2), while posting literally some of the lowest numbers of his entire career.
His season was officially derailed by a dislocated left shoulder that capped off a rather depressing season considering the talent allocated on the team.
From the time the injury happened in January of that season, many figured Noah played his last game in a Bulls uniform and that panned out to be true.
After Phil Jackson was slammed for the 4-year deal given to Noah, Noah played 46 games for the Knicks before succumbing to the same injury-fate he faced in Chicago the year prior. He had a myriad of nagging injuries, most prominently a hamstring one, and was ultimately shut down for the season after he had arthroscopic knee surgery.
After all this darkness is what most likely lead Joakim to resort to whatever means necessary to nurse himself back to health which lead to his unwise demise of mixing in some PEDs to his routine.
According to Woj of ESPN, the NBA players union officially noted that Noah didn’t knowingly take performance enhancing drugs, the one in question being Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 (SARMs). It was also reported that Noah had been fully cooperative with the investigation the whole time and extremely remorseful.
Clearly, the man made a mistake and quite honestly it’s a glimpse at the pressures some of these athletes put on themselves to be the best they can be in an era where every single aspect of the personal life and professional career is available for mass scrutiny and dissemination.
But to play devil’s advocate, is this Noah situation worse than say...Andrew Bynum? Take Bynum’s situation; a kid who was plucked by the Lakers’ front office at age 18 to step into the Goliath shadows of great Laker bigs and become one himself. He was surrounded by willing teachers such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar who were willing to impart hall of fame knowledge to the young center.
Granted in his quest he picked up two championships (I think a lot of that should be owed to Kobe and Pau), but it’s AFTER his Lakers tenure that things began to become a bit questionable.
There were numerous discussions about Bynum’s dedication to his health in his stint with the Sixers, such as the bowling snafu. Here’s a guy who signed a major contract as well (although he was soon traded), but you get the sense that he never really put his all into coming back in shape stronger than ever before. At the very least, you would have to agree that Bynum’s desire to play basketball at a high level again versus Noah were a worlds apart.
Noah’s calling card his entire career has been his energy, hustle, and will. His will is definitely still present, but the energy and hustle are tied directly into how his 32 year old body holds up at this point.
Although he’s officially activated as a member of the New York Knicks today, he faces a logjam at the center position with Kanter, O'Quinn, Hernangomez as well as an extremely unattractive contract in terms of a trade piece.
Noah can still be a fantastic locker room guy; he’s been questioned about his potential role upon returning to this Knicks squad that is seemingly getting along fine without him and he’s still saying all the right things.
“I’m happy to be back with the team. It’s been a long couple weeks. I’m happy we’re playing well. And I’m just happy to be back,” Noah said this week. “All I can do is just be as ready as possible. I feel like I’ve put myself in that position, grinding hard. Whatever my role is I’ll accept it.
Although his career has been on an extreme downward slope since his last all-star season in 13-14, Noah has no plans of calling it quits anytime soon and if you’ve followed his career (including Florida), you’re not really surprised.