The long wait for Joakim Noah's return to the NBA is over. On Friday, Noah agreed to a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 35-year-old center will be joining the Clippers next week according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This move means Noah will be coached by Doc Rivers who of course knows Noah quite well, as he spent over a decade as a coach in the Eastern Conference and coached against Noah and the Bulls in one of the most entertaining playoff series in NBA history.
Rivers has a penchant for bringing in veteran players who have either played for him or performed well against his teams in past stops. We decided to make a five-man lineup of some of the more memorable (or head-scratching) veteran additions that Rivers has made in his career to see if Noah has a legitimate chance to be the best of the “Doc Rivers All-Stars." Last season he showed that he still has a bit left in the tank:
Great pick-up for LAC if healthy. Only one other player matched Joakim Noah’s rebound and assist rate on a per possession basis last season: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thought Noah would be a good fit in Utah reuniting with Mike Conley. https://t.co/tejMS2227y— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) March 6, 2020
Joakim Noah draws a charge on LeBron with 20 seconds to go in a 4-point game.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 26, 2019
The Grizzlies went on to win the game. pic.twitter.com/qUNevpJQB6
Rivers has taken a strong liking to the play of center Ivica Zubac, who is the lone “traditional” center on the Clippers’ roster. He recently spoke to the media about Zubac knowing how to utilize size well. Rivers likely decided that he did not like the lack of traditional centers on the Clippers roster with the possibility of postseason matchups against Nikola Jokic or Rudy Gobert looming.
Noah will not come in and dominate games for the Clippers but his presence will be great in the locker room and he could be big in certain matchups are the “Doc Rivers All-Stars” including Noah as the center. We look over the relation to Rivers for Noah and the four other players that make up the list.
PG: Nate Robinson
Chicago fan-favorite Nate Robinson played for a total of eight teams throughout his NBA career, including his exciting run with the Bulls in the 2012-13 season. But the reason Robinson makes the “Doc Rivers All-Stars” is that he actually played for Rivers in three different seasons in his 11-year NBA career. Robinson first played for Doc when he was traded from the New York Knicks to the Celtics for a package including guard Eddie House. Robinson got to play for a pair of very successful Boston teams and later played for the Clippers in 2015 on a pair of 10-day contracts before nagging injuries led to Los Angeles not re-signing him.
Result: Robinson was a solid contributor to the Celtics in his limited role. He averaged 4.2 points and 1.1 assists per game on 37.5% shooting (33.3% from the 3-point line) in 17 playoff games. In Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals Robinson scored 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench to help the Celtics even the Finals at 2-2. Boston would go on to lose in seven games to the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Lakers.
SG: Sam Cassell
The Celtics were in the midst of their desperate NBA title pursuit in the 2007-08 season when they decided that they needed to add some veteran help to the backcourt. In 2008, Cassell was in his age-38 season with the Los Angeles Clippers, who were heading towards yet another last-place finish in the Pacific Division. Cassell jumped at the opportunity to join Rivers’ Celtics after being released by the Clippers.
Result: Cassell played a total of 17 regular season games for Boston, starting in one. He only played 12.6 minutes per game in the 2008 playoffs but his mere presence was a positive one as the Celtics would go on to win the 2008 NBA Championship.
SF: Jeff Green
Green’s career was interrupted when he took off the 2011-12 season--when he played for Rivers and the Celtics-- to deal with a heart condition that was thought to be threatening to his NBA career. Thankfully, Green bounced back, reaching a career-high 17.6 points per game with Boston in 2015. Green’s shooting numbers took a dip after that season but despite that, Rivers brought Green to the Clippers in 2016. The Clippers traded Lance Stephenson and a future 1st round pick for Green. He lasted one season with the Clips before continuing to bounce around the league.
Result: The Clippers were bounced by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games in the Western Conference First Round. Over the sox games, Green averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game on 45.7% shooting.
PF: Josh Smith
Josh Smith was an uber-athletic forward who was a defensive menace over his 13 seasons in the NBA. His main weakness was an addiction to the 3-point shot. He shot 28.5% from 3-point range for his career with over 1,500 attempts. Smith was a part of the Houston Rockets squad that staged an enormous comeback to takedown the Doc Rivers-coached Clippers in the Western Conference Finals in 2015.
2015 Conference Semis at Clippers— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 26, 2018
Rockets trailed by 17 when Harden checked out with 1:33 left in the 3rd, and then Josh Smith (!!) led the team on a series-saving 47-18 run. Harden played 0 minutes in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/s8TxXMhg1N
Smith scored 19 points in Game 6 and 15 points in Game 7. Predictably, Rivers and co. inked Smith to a one-year deal the ensuing offseason.
Result: Smith averaged 5.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on 38.3% shooting from the field over 32 games with the Clippers before he was traded back to the Houston Rockets.
C: Joakim Noah
On March 6 it was reported that the Clippers had agreed to terms on a 10-day contract with Joakim Noah. He last played for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-19 season. Over 42 games with Memphis, Noah averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 16.5 minutes per game. He showed that he definitely had gotten back into game shape and most importantly, Noah showed that he could still contribute to winning basketball.
Only time will tell if Noah can, or will even get the opportunity to contribute to the Clippers, who are currently the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But based on everything we in Chicago know of Joakim Noah, he will do whatever is asked of him-- including being an excellent locker room presence--to help the Clippers NBA Championship chase.