Nerlens Noel’s dynamic play is easing Knicks’ depth issues

Who needs another center? The Knicks have Nerlens Noel.

Mitchell Robinson has a broken hand. Backup center Taj Gibson was back in New York with a sprained ankle.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau faced the Pistons on Sunday with one healthy center and it was plenty enough.

The Knicks moved to 6-2 since Robinson went down and Noel became the starter. He was a raging rim protector Sunday at Detroit’s Little Caesar’s Arena, notching eight points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

Just ask Detroit rookie Saddiq Bey if the Knicks need to upgrade the center position after he got humiliated by Noel when his driving stuff attempt got soundly rejected.

“If you don’t know you’re going to find out,’’ Noel said about his message for drivers to the rack. “I’m protecting the rim by any means. It’s a great aspect to my game I try to play at a high level. Just do enough to change the game. Just come in and find out.’’’

Knicks president Leon Rose doesn’t seem ready to add another center quite yet. The Post has reported team brass was “analyzing’’ whether a move for the available Andre Drummond makes sense.

Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel goes strong to the basket against the Pistons.
Getty Images

Center DeMarcus Cousins, whose stock is low, is still a free agent after being unceremoniously waived by Houston.

“That’s a Leon question,’’ Thibodeau said before the game. “We have more than enough on the roster so we’ll figure out a way. We have guys that can play multiple positions and then we’re going to have to take care of the rebounding, gang rebound. Everyone has to contribute in that area.’’

The Knicks have had past interest in former Sixers center Norvel Pelle but he signed a 10-day contract Thursday with Sacramento. Pelle won’t be available until after the All-Star break.

Knicks GM Scott Perry has been on a G-League mission presumably looking at center pieces. Westchester Knicks center Justin Patton was signed by Houston last week. If the Knicks signed a free-agent center they’d have to cut a player to make room.

Gibson’s ankle sprain could be serious but the Knicks can also play small-ball and briefly used Obi Toppin at power forward and Julius Randle at center.

One team in contact with the Knicks said they want to hold down the fort with what they have for now.


Thibodeau finally used a smallball lineup Saturday he was considering with Kevin Knox at power forward and Randle at center but didn’t need it in routing Detroit.


Combo guard Austin Rivers traveled with the team to Detroit for Sunday’s game. The Post reported Rivers never appeared on the Knicks bench during Saturday’s win. A Knicks official said he was getting treatment for an ankle injury but was available to play if need be. He’s been taken out of the rotation the past month after the Derrick Rose trade. Then in another slight, Frank Ntilikina was placed into the 10-man rotation when Elfrid Payton went down with a hamstring strain. Payton missed his third straight game. Rivers said last week he feels he could be dealt. … Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored seven points with four assists and seven rebounds in his first game against the Knicks since his trade to Detroit on Super Bowl Sunday. He’ll be back at the Garden on Thursday.

source: nypost.com