NEW YORK: In Thursday’s (Friday in Manila) final hours before the NBA’s free agency period began, Joakim Noah was reportedly being eyed by the New York Knicks while Oklahoma City looked at Al Horford to help keep Kevin Durant with the Thunder.
Players whose contracts expire become free agents and can start talks with other clubs at one minute after midnight Friday morning on the US East Coast, with Durant among the top players looking seriously at making a move.
Players cannot officially sign contracts until July 7 but that will not prevent them from agreeing to terms earlier and waiting a week to complete the paperwork, although it leaves most deals in the realm of reports and unnamed sources until teams have something to announce or players announce their plans.
Noah, the son of French tennis legend Yannick Noah, has been a standout for the Chicago Bulls. ESPN reports Noah will meet with Knicks president Phil Jackson shortly after the negotiating window opens.
A move to New York would reunite Noah with former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose, who was traded from the Bulls to the Knicks last week in a deal that saw center Robin Lopez sent to Chicago.
Noah, 31, appeared in a career-low 29 games last season as a result of left shoulder injuries, a season-ending dislocation coming last January. He averaged a career-low 4.3 points a game plus 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists. In nine seasons with the Bulls, Noah has averaged 9.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game in the NBA after leading the University of Florida to two US national college crowns.
Another former Gator getting big attention is Atlanta Hawks power forward Horford, a 30-year-old Dominican big man who was a Florida teammate of Noah under coach Billy Donovan, who is now coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Donovan is expected to make a move for Horford, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Hawks. Horford has played his nine NBA seasons all with Atlanta.
The Thunder need a power forward after dealing Congo-born Spanish Olympian Serge Ibaka to Orlando Magic last week for guard Victor Oladipo, who will partner with Russell Westbroook in Oklahoma City’s backcourt.
Firming up the Thunder lineup would let Durant know about the roster and whether or not he feels it marks his best chance to win a long-sought NBA crown.
Durant is considering not only money, which the Thunder can offer, but championship capabilities, and the teams who want to speak with him are contenders.
Durant met with the Thunder on Thursday and is expected to meet with Boston, Miami, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State, which lost to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.