Nerlens Noel believes it’s “definitely important” to get into one of the Knicks’ remaining two preseason games, either Wednesday at the Garden against the Pistons or Friday at home against the Wizards.
The veteran center has sat out the first two games with what the Knicks have called a knee issue, but he described his injury as “just a little achiness” and “more hamstring than knee.”
“[There is] a fine line and a balance to everything, to be smart about it,” Noel said after participating in Tuesday’s practice. “I’m a professional, eight, nine years now, so I know my body very well. So I’m going to keep listening to it and make sure when I hit the ground I’m ready.”
Center Mitchell Robinson is still working his way back from March foot surgery, so Noel likely will start the season opener next Wednesday against the Celtics, with Taj Gibson as the backup.
“Making sure we tread lightly, making sure there’s no setbacks,” said Noel, who ranked third in the league last season with 2.2 blocks per game. “The most important part of the season is [Game] 1 through 82, so I’m going to lock it in.”
Noel’s absence afforded an opportunity for rookie center Jericho Sims to log 51 minutes over the first two games. He averaged 7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t commit to another extended look for Sims if Noel dresses Wednesday night.
“We’ll see how it unfolds. The idea, you’re trying to find that balance of getting your rotation set for the regular season,” Thibodeau said. “That part, with the change in preseason games going from eight to four, there’s a shorter amount of time. The main thing is to make sure when the ball goes up on the 20th, you’re ready for that day.
“The way it’s unfolded with injuries or guys missing for personal reasons, it’s good because it gives you an opportunity to look at different guys. … Those are pluses.”
The Knicks have re-signed former Seton Hall guard Myles Powell, who appeared in 13 games last season with the Westchester Knicks of the G-League. The Knicks also waived guard Tyler Hall to keep 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 Johnnie Bryant at the University of Utah.