From the moment his name was announced on the Garden PA system, it was easy to see that Joakim Noah loved every second of playing in front of his hometown crowd. In the team's home opener, he played with aggression, enthusiasm and could be seen roaring and pumping his chest during key turning points of the game.
Noah was obviously excited for this opportunity, and as such, was a bit overzealous on the defensive end. The Knicks could benefit from that energy, as long as he tames it back just a bit with regard to his eagerness to commit unnecessary fouls. Noah fouled out in just 22 minutes of play.
Nevertheless, Noah's impact was evident from start to finish. Obviously in signing the former Defensive Player of the Year, the Knicks knew they were getting a high quality player to anchor their defense. Not only did Noah crash the boards and lead the Knicks with 10, but he also helped spark the team's offensive efforts with an awing game-high of seven assists. Noah's court vision was terrific. What's more, upon grabbing a rebound, the big man could also be seen taking the ball himself and running it down the length of the court. There's arguably no other center in today's NBA that does that with as much poise and ease.
Noah's versatile and eye-opening efforts in the Knicks' Saturday night win over Memphis beg the question: will he make a bigger impact than Robin Lopez did last season?
By all accounts, Lopez was terrific for the Knicks. He was just one of eighteen players in the NBA to appear in all 82 games. It took him a while to find a certain rhythm and gain the trust of the coaching staff. Still, once he got going, Lopez was a consistent double-double threat. He averaged 12.2 points (on 55 percent shooting), 9.2 boards and 2.2 blocks following the All-Star break. He proved the contract he signed back in the summer of 2015 to be a bargain, and looked as though he would be a core building block for New York's immediate future. The Derrick Rose trade changed all of that, and the Knicks subsequently went on to spend big on Noah instead.
Noah's ability (or lack there of) to battle off the injury bug is a huge concern, especially as it relates to him earning every penny of that lucrative contract. There should be no question, however, of what he brings to the table when actually on the court. He's a very unique player, complete with many tools, which can make an impact on both ends of the floor. He clearly elevated the Knicks' efforts against the Grizzlies.
Lopez's durability for the Knicks was a huge asset because he was dependable. The team might not be able to say the same about Noah as this season unfolds. Still, if Hell's Kitchen's own can muster 65-70 appearances, his own capabilities will prove him to be an even more valuable player.
After giving New York a taste of what can be, the pressure is now on Noah to keep it up. It's hard not to want more of what he contributed.