The New York Knicks have emerged as strong favorites to sign free-agent big man Joakim Noah, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that multiple teams interested in Noah, a former All-Star center, have all but conceded already that the Knicks are his runaway preferred destination in free agency.
No deals can be officially signed until July 7, but teams and free agents can start coming to verbal agreements on contracts starting Friday at 12:01 a.m.
Noah is scheduled to meet with Knicks president Phil Jackson at the beginning of free agency on Friday, according to sources.
There is significant interest on both sides; Noah, a native New Yorker, had expressed strong interest in signing with the Knicks in recent days, sources say.
He is close with both Carmelo Anthony and Rose, his former teammate, who said last week that he’d like Noah to join him in New York.
The Knicks are eager to land a center this offseason. They have prioritized the position in free agency after trading Robin Lopez, last year’s starting center, to Chicago in the Derrick Rose trade.
Noah, 31, is coming off of a season filled with injury in 2015-16. He suffered two significant shoulder injuries that limited him to just 29 games last season, missing nearly a month with a left shoulder tear and undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a left shoulder dislocation in January.
Noah spent a portion of his summer at The Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, California. Noah has been outspoken in years’ past about how much he loves Chicago, and there is still some hope within his camp that he will stay with the Bulls, but the likely option is that Noah will take a big money deal from a team and look for a new start.
“I’m very focused on free-agency. I spent the last 10 years in Chicago, there were good moments and bad moments but now I have an incredible opportunity for a player, being recruited by a team, I definitely want to live that kind of experience,” Noah said in June, according to international website Sportando. “It’s new for me but it’s something very intriguing for a player.”
The Knicks have roughly $30 million to spend in free agency and hope to fit Noah into that space while keeping enough room to add a starting shooting guard. Courtney Lee and Eric Gordon are among the guards the Knicks have a level of interest in, sources say.
Some members of the organization expressed optimism earlier in the week about getting an audience with free agent Kevin Durant. But if the club comes to terms quickly with Noah, it’s unlikely that it will have the requisite cap space to sign Durant to a max contract. The Knicks are currently not among the teams that has secured a meeting with Durant.
Information from ESPN’s Nick Friedell was used in this report.