Nerlens Noel believes it is “definitely important” to be involved in one of the Knicks’ remaining two preseason games, either at the Garden against the Pistons on Wednesday or at home against the Wizards on Friday.
The veteran center called the first two games the Knicks had a knee problem, but he described his injury as “a slight pain” and “more of a hamstring than a knee”.
“[There is] “There’s a fine line and balance of everything to be smart about it,” Noel said after attending Tuesday’s exercise. “I’m a professional now, eight, nine years old, so I know my body very well. So I’ll keep listening to it and make sure I’m ready when I take the field.”
Center Mitchell Robinson is still working his way out of March foot surgery, so Noel will likely start the season next Wednesday against the Celtics, with Taj Gibson as backup.
“While making sure we tread lightly, making sure there are no setbacks,” said Noel, who finished third in the league last season with 2.2 blocks per game. “The most important part of the season is [Game] 1 to 82, so I’m going to lock it up.”
Noel’s absence allowed rookie center Jericho Sims to log 51 minutes in the first two games. He averaged 7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau won’t commit to another extended look for Sims if Noel gets dressed on Wednesday night.
“We’ll see how it pans out. Idea, you’re trying to find the balance of setting up your rotation for the regular season,” Thibodeau said. “That part, changes from eight to four in pre-season games With, a small amount of time. The main thing is to make sure that when the ball goes up on the 20th, you are ready for that day.
“The way it has come up with people missing due to injuries or personal reasons, it’s good because it gives you a chance to see different people. … Those are pluses.”
The Knicks have re-signed former Seton Hall guard Miles Powell, who appeared in 13 games with the G-League’s Westchester Knicks last season. The Knicks also forgave guard Tyler Hall for keeping the roster at 20 players.
Former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen (2018-20) attended practice, chatting with Thibodeau and former Chicago guard Derrick Rose. Boylen also coached Knicks assistant Jonny Bryant at the University of Utah.