No Noah, no problem.
The Knicks have gone on 4-0 without Joakim Noah, but there's no denying having him rise up and be the player New York is hoping he can be would pay dividends rather quickly.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been that player since (at the very most recent) the 2014-15 season. The player the Knicks have acquired looks like a shell of his former self. Of course, he's provided flashes of intrigue, physicality, and toughness here and there.
Noah's vision on offense is among the best for centers in the NBA. With a bevy of tip-backs when crashing the glass, Noah continues to create second-chance opportunities. On defense, he plays an excellent mental game and can frustrate opponents.
Noah hasn't been able to do this on a consistent basis. He's missed games and New York has proven to be successful without him already. His absences have forced the Knicks to get into a different rhythm -- one that works without him on the floor. When inserting Noah back in, such cohesion often looks lost.
When a team has a player of Noah's expected caliber, it's up to the coaching staff to put him in the best position to be successful. The center hasn't given them much reason to keep him on the floor for extended periods of time, however.
Statistically, he certainly hasn't been productive. Moreover, Noah has surprisingly been prone to committing silly fouls. While he did have a good stretch against DeMarcus Cousins earlier this month, Noah has been out-muscled and outmatched by opposing big men Tristan Thompson, Hassan Whiteside, Enes Kanter, and Steven Adams over the last week or so. He also missed both games against Karl-Anthony Towns.
If the early goings of December have been a test for Noah, he's failed it. His efforts have been underwhelming. At this point, it's safe to say Kyle O'Quinn has outplayed him and deserves to start. He has great chemistry with the rest of the first unit, can run up the floor, and is averaging 7.3 points (on 61 percent shooting), 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks over his last 10 games. In just 20.2 minutes, those are the Noah-esque contributions the Knicks need to start off contests.
In the meantime, Noah can just bring energy off the bench and worry less about serving as an anchor. He can focus on doing the little things, complementing the other reserves. His physical play has only come in bunches thus far, so perhaps that role is a perfect one as he continues to build up more stamina. He can't maintain the same level of intensity from start to finish.
At this point, the Knicks have found success and are steadily forming an identity. They're beginning to understand what works. O'Quinn has proven he can carry his own weight, so it's time to depend on him for longer stretches (and at key times) until they can say the same about Noah again.