Wizards Preseason Game 2 – From The Other Side: Noah’s Back | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Preseason Game 2 – From The Other Side: Noah’s Back

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Updated: October 7, 2017

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the return of New York Knicks’ Center/Forward, Joakim Noah.

John Wall wasn’t the only player on the court making his (pre)season debut in last night’s Wizards/Knicks game. Forward Joakim Noah, who has been slowly recovering from knee surgery, also saw his first action of the 2017-2018 season.  He played 12 minutes (all of the third quarter) and finished with two points, two turnovers, two fouls, two assists a blocked shot and five rebounds. But the stats are irrelevant–not simply because it was a preseason game–but mainly because Noah’s impact on the game centers around the intangibles.

Noah set hard interior screens, he barked out instructions on offense and defense, he showed hard on pick and rolls, and even though he knew there was little chance he would receive the ball in the post, he assumed the position occasionally by crouching down and outstretching his hands just enough to keep the defense honest.  When the ball didn’t come, he’d set yet another pick or position himself for the rebound.

The highlights of his night were a sweeping hook that he made over the outstretched arms of Marcin Gortat, and a block of Jason Smith’s three-point attempt.

https://twitter.com/hennessyfirst/status/916462130848813056

Noah also was instrumental in holding the Wizards–both the starters and the reserves–to their lowest shooting percentage of the game while he was on the court (31 percent). In fact, up until the 1:30 mark of the third quarter, when the Wizards scored nine points in less than a minute, Noah and the Knicks had held the Wizards to just 11 points in the quarter. The Knicks went from trailing by one, to leading by nine points during that span.

At the conclusion of the quarter, Noah high-fived his teammates and coaches, then he went back to the bench, and cheered on his teammates for the remainder of the game.

Relishing this type of minutiae in a preseason game doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a player who is in his 11th year, and has been in playoff battles with Cleveland, Boston and Washington. But thanks to knee and shoulder surgeries which cut his 2016-17 season short, a drug suspension that cost him eight games last season and 12 additional games this season, and a totally revamped roster which saw the Knicks make wholesale changes to their roster, Noah’s circumstances aren’t exactly normal.

“It’s been a long time away from the game,” Noah told Newsday’s Al Iannazzone after Friday’s morning shootaround. “I’m still a work in progress. I’m just excited to get back on the court. I’m dealing with a lot of adversity right now. It’s just where the cards fell. It’s like being a rookie all over again. I got to prove myself, I got to prove myself every day. It’s my challenge. It’s the challenge that I put myself in. I just got to keep working every day.”

During training camp and in the practices leading up to the preseason games, Coach Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly remarked how shocked he is at how well Noah is playing despite his two surgeries, and at the conclusion of last night’s game, he continued to sound encouraged by Noah’s progress:

Like I said before, he’s looked great in all the preseason stuff we’ve been doing and we’re going to try to take it easy on him. He’s not really going to play for a while, so we don’t want to wear him out, but he wanted to play some and we wanted to get him out there and continue having that feel. It’s no fun to just always do it in practice, so to get in a couple games before the start was good and he was good.

After the game against the Wizards, Noah sat at his locker with ice on his knees and a boxed dinner in his lap. He offered words of encouragement to his teammate Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who did not play, and he traded jokes with Michael Beasley. When he was first approached to speak to the media about his evening he hesitated, then he put aside his dinner, stopped talking to his teammates and answered questions.  He was encouraged by how he played in his brief 12-minute stint, but he was not happy about his team’s defensive effort overall:

It felt good to get some time…but we gotta communicate on defense and all those schemes. When we do that and we communicate, it helps the rotations and with all the new faces we have to grow together. We can’t get too high and we can’t get too low, we just have stay focused.

Noah turned more solemn when he was asked how bittersweet it is to be on the court tonight helping his new and young teammates, knowing that he won’t be able to officially participate until the 13th game of the season.

Unfortunately with my situation, I just—I know it’s a long season and I just gotta stay positive and keep my mind right, stay healthy and try to help my team out any way I can.

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.