GREENBURGH, N.Y. — When the Knicks decided they wanted to build a more competitive team, Joakim Noah couldn't wait to get on board.
He remembers watching plenty of games at Madison Square Garden and knows better than most what it means to have winning basketball in the city where he was born.
So the former Gator committed quickly when he became a free agent and signed his contract Friday as the centerpiece of what the Knicks hope can be a contender.
"This means everything to me, and I'm going to do everything to make this special," Noah, 31, said.
The Knicks also signed veteran guards Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee, along with rookie big men Marshall Plumlee and Guillermo "Willy" Hernangomez, and re-signed forward Lance Thomas. Add in Derrick Rose, Noah's former Bulls teammate who was acquired via trade last month, and the Knicks believe they can turn a 50-loss team into a playoff one.
Noah was born in New York and attended high school there. His mother, former Miss Sweden Cecilia Rodhe, still lives in Brooklyn after her divorce from French tennis star Yannick Noah. His sister lives in the city, too.
Noah said it was hard to leave after nine years in Chicago, where Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said his impact can't be measured. "He is loved by all in our organization, and he will always be a Bull," Reinsdorf said.
"Sometimes it's just time to move on," Noah said. "When this situation opened up, I knew … this was where I wanted to be."
SPEIGHTS TO CLIPS: St. Petersburg's Marreese Speights said he signed a multiyear contract with the Clippers. The 28-year-old former Gator averaged 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds for the Warriors last season. The 6-foot-10, 255-pounder was a member of the Warriors' 2014-15 championship team.
Since signing Kevin Durant, the Warriors have lost Speights, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush from last season.
The Clippers are also keeping their bench together, re-signing three-time sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford, guard Austin Rivers, forward Luc Mbah a Moute and forward Wesley Johnson. Crawford, 36, agreed to a $42 million, three-year deal.
CELTIC PRIDE: Boston brought Al Horford out for the media even as the team waits for its new deal with the former Hawks big man to be approved by the league. The former Gator agreed to a four-year, $113 million contract, the biggest free agent deal in franchise history. "People around the league, they appreciate, they understand how special it is," Horford, 30, said of playing for Celtics. "I hope that if I'm coming here, it will definitely open the door to other free agents."
TRADE: The Spurs traded forward Boris Diaw and a second-round pick in 2022 to the Jazz for point guard Olivier Hanlan. Diaw, 34, averaged 6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season. Hanlan was a second-round pick by the Jazz in 2015 and played last season in Lithuania.
BUCKS: Forward Mirza Teletovic, who averaged a career-high 12.2 points for the Suns last season, signed.
GRIZZLIES: Forward Chandler Parsons, who shot 41.4 percent from 3 last season with the Mavs and has averaged 14.3 points in his five seasons, agreed to a four-year, $94 million contract. The former Gator's deal was quickly followed by point guard Mike Conley reaching agreement on a five-year, $153 million contract.
HEAT: Forward Derrick Williams, who averaged 9.3 points last season for the Knicks, agreed to sign as a free agent.
LAKERS: Center Timofey Mozgov, who just won a championship with the Cavaliers, finalized a four-year, $64 million deal.
MAVERICKS: Point guard Deron Williams is coming back for a second season with his hometown team, signing a $10 million, one-year deal. Dwight Powell, a 6-foot-11 restricted free agent, signed a $37 million, four-year deal. The club also signed two rookies: center A.J. Hammons and former Gator forward Dorian Finney-Smith.
THUNDER: Forward Mitch McGary has been suspended five games without pay for violating the terms of the league's antidrug program.