Knicks interested in familiar face to boost depth for last chunk of season

Is it 2021 again?
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Al Bello/GettyImages

In case you haven't noticed, the New York Knicks have a thing for bringing former players back. Taj Gibson is technically in his third separate stint with the Knicks this season. He signed a non-guaranteed deal in December before being waived. Since then, he's signed two 10-day contracts.

New York's frontcourt has taken a few injury hits this season, from Mitchell Robinson injuring his ankle in December to Julius Randle dislocating his shoulder in late January. If it weren't for the injuries piling up, Gibson wouldn't be in New York. Well, that can't be said for sure because Tom Thibodeau might've found a way to bring the beloved veteran back regardless.

Besides Gibson, there's another former player the Knicks have considered signing. On Friday, HoopsHype's Michael Scotto reported that before signing Gibson to his second 10-day deal, the front office explored a reunion with free agent Nerlens Noel.

Knicks expressed "exploratory interest" in former center Nerlens Noel

New York can't sign Gibson to a third 10-day deal. If the team wants to bring him back, it'll have to be on a deal for the rest of the season. Considering he's the player the Knicks have turned to in their time of need, it seems likelier that New York will turn to Gibson over Noel.

Noel hasn't played in a game this season. He signed a partially guaranteed deal with Sacramento before 2023-24 began but was waived shortly after. Like Gibson, he's been waiting on another team to bring him in.

If the Knicks don't sign him, perhaps the Hornets or Rockets will. Scotto reported that both teams have also expressed interest in Noel. New York would give Noel the best chance at competing for a ring between the three. Houston would be his next-best option, but the Rockets are 3.5 games back from being in Play-In Tournament range.

Even if New York were to bring Noel back, he would be nothing more than injury insurance, but he has a concerning injury history himself. He may prefer a more prominent role with another team, which won't happen with the Knicks.