The New York Knicks under Pat Riley (and then Jeff Van Gundy) back in the day were a rough and tumble bunch. With Patrick Ewing securing the paint, the Knicks frustrated basketball purists and delighted most Knicks fans with a physical style that made it hard to explain to neophytes that basketball was not a contact sport. But it wasn’t just the elbows of Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley that made the Knicks a tough out for a decade — it was the hustle and know-how. Madison Square Garden has been lacking both for a long time. The Mike Woodson-coached Knicks visited the style briefly, but couldn’t maintain it. Now the Knicks are looking to add a player who personifies the sacrifice-everything-on-the-court spirit that made those old Knicks great: Joakim Noah.
The pre-Hoiberg Tom Thibodeau Bulls played hustle-based, defense-first basketball led by Noah, who has been the heart of the Bulls since they started going to the playoffs every year (until last year) since 2008. Phil Jackson just acquired Noah’s teammate, former MVP Derrick Rose, who with Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony could make a Big 3 at Madison Square Garden. Joakim Noah is the type of player that makes Big 3s work.