Knicks C Joakim Noah has learned a lot from his 20-game PED suspension as he awaits his comeback.
Noah will return to the team Monday when the Knicks take on the Cavaliers. He has been able to practice with the team, but he has not been able to step on the court at gametime. It has killed him to watch on the bench to start the season, which has taught the veteran center a lesson.
"I'm not gonna lie, it was very humbling, very tough, to not be able to be with the guys, to have to stay back and watch the games alone, even on the bus. That's been tough," Noah told the Daily News. "It's been a long couple weeks. I'm happy we're playing well. And I'm just happy to be back with the team."
There is no guarantee that Noah will see a lot of minutes in his return. Centers Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn have both had good starts to the season. The Knicks may have to get rid of someone on the roster to make room for Noah, but his role is up in the air at the moment.
No matter how much time he gets on the floor, Noah will be ready to make the best of his minutes.
"All I can do is just be as ready as possible," he said. "I feel like I've put myself in that position, grinding hard. Whatever my role is, I'll accept it."
As for now, head coach Jeff Hornacek has to worry about facing the Kings on Saturday and not what he is going to do with Noah when he returns to his rotation.
"We're going to have to figure that out when we can," Hornacek said. "With (GM) Scott (Perry) trying to figure out what our moves are, if all four centers are there it's going to be a situation where we'll have to take a look at whether we can keep all four of them out there. It's already tough enough trying to get Willy minutes. But Jo, he's been working hard in practice. He's been doing a great job. So we'll try to get him worked in at some point."
Noah was booked for his suspension after taking an over-the-counter supplement back in March that had a banned substance within it. He said he took the supplement to recover faster from a knee surgery.
Looking ahead to his return, Noah is simply grateful for the chance to redeem himself in his home city.
"It's more than a learning experience. It's been very humbling. But it helped me also get my life in order, just really focusing on what matter," Noah said. "Right now I still feel like I have a great opportunity to be able to play at home. That's something that I'm not going to take for granted. And it was taken away from me because of a bad decision. So right now it's definitely a learning experience. I'm happy that I can get back and do what I love to do."
In 46 games last season, Noah avearged 5.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks while shooting 49 percent from the field.