Joakim Noah has a ton of regrets from last season, and one of them is his awful campaign may have played a role in costing Phil Jackson his job.
In his first comments since the season ended, Noah also admitted he “lost my confidence’’ and “wasn’t moving right.” He said his drug suspension “hurt a lot of people,’’ and he has “to live with it the rest of my career.’’
But Noah added he is ready to redeem himself by being a model veteran for the Knicks’ young big men.
In breaking his silence, the Knicks center gave an emotionally charged, 75-minute interview with the “Truth Barrel’’ podcast. He beat himself up over the nightmare his first season in New York became after Jackson lavished him with a whopping four-year, $72 million contract. Jackson was fired in late June.
“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson.’’
Noah, 32, spoke philosophically about a year in which everything that could’ve gone wrong for him went wrong.
“I wouldn’t trade it for s–t,’’ Noah said. “I know a lot of people are mad about it, but I’m not. I don’t feel sorry for myself. Everything that happened were my decisions. I’m a grown-ass man. I’m playing in New York City. It sucked because I didn’t play well. I get to bounce back and come back next year. … I’m not going to quit.
“I know New York — I know if I can come back and get it right, that could be a big story, too,’’ Noah added.
Noah, the two-time All-Star, saw his play dip significantly. He was wracked with various injuries before his drug suspension finished his season. He had surgery on a torn rotator cuff in late April, after he was suspended for 20 games for testing positive for Androgen, for which he still has 12 games left to serve. He can’t play until Nov. 13, against the Cavaliers.
The Knicks are in rebuild mode and have made it a priority to build around a young core that includes big men Willy Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis. Noah wants to be a strong influence on them. He is also the only player who can speak French with the team’s first-round pick, point guard Frank Ntilikina.
“We have some really good young players coming up at my position,’’ Noah said. “I’ve got to see the NBA at its highest level. I don’t like that some of these young guys have only seen bulls–t. It’s important for these young guys to have good vets. I want to be that for the younger guys. They have to see the right way.”
On several occasions, Noah mentioned a confidence loss last season. He struggled from the free-throw line (43 percent), couldn’t find rhythm on offense and seemed to lose a step on defense in his 46 games. He admitted he faced “high expectations” because he signed “a really big deal.”
“I went through a lot of adversity,’’ Noah said. “You go through injuries. I lost my confidence this year. It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you’re made of.
“I still have a lot of mountains to climb,’’ Noah added. “My role, I don’t know what it’s going to be. I don’t know what’s coming. I want to be as ready as possible.’’
In explaining his PED suspension, Noah said his heart was in the right place as he was injured and “went in the wrong direction.’’
“I thought I could take something that could help me that wasn’t on the banned list,’’ Noah said, “and it was contaminated with some s–t that was banned. It was really, really rough. It was over the counter. I usually go through the team doctors, and I kind of went and did it my way and it affected a lot of people, a lot of loved ones and my family. It was more than me and my reputation. It sucked to see how many people it hurt. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my career.’’
Noah said he, as a New Yorker, understood the rancor he received from Knicks fans. He moved to New York from Paris at age 12.
“You can’t hate on them,’’ Noah said. “They’re frustrated.”
“They didn’t like me in Chicago at first, too, but New York was different,’’ Noah said on the podcast. “I grew up a Knicks fan, too. I had so much respect for [the organization]. Everything that stands for being a Knickerbocker, playing at the Garden. But I didn’t feel I could move the way I could. I lost my confidence. They were on me, man. That’s not going to change. That’s New York.
“I still have an unbelievable opportunity throughout all this s–t. I can go out there and hold my head high and do my job like a man,’’ Noah said. “That might not be enough for a Knicks fan because I’m making a lot of money, but it’s not about Knicks fans, it’s about me being comfortable. I can’t say last year I was happy the way the s–t went down. I left there head down, hurt. If I can end next year [knowing] I busted my ass this year no matter what and be a good influence in the locker room, I want to make sure this group is going in the right direction.’’
Noah commended two teammates for dealing well with last season’s chaos: Derrick Rose, who signed with Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony.
“Carmelo can block everything out,’’ Noah said. “That makes them special in their own way.’’