ICYMI, Grantland’s Zach Lowe casually dropped an interesting nugget regarding the surprising dispatch of the second-best GM the Knicks have ever had with a last name beginning with “Grun”:
The Knicks hired Mills in part because he believes they should keep the cap picture clear for the summer of 2015, invest in player development, and move away from Grunwald’s tendency to sign aging players, he says. “We believe there needs to be a heavier focus on making the players we have better, making sure they improve, and making decisions about whether we want to invest in older players — or if there are opportunities to find younger ones we can turn into impact players.”
Naturally, a detailed analysis of Mr. Grunwald’s rank in the pantheon of Knick GMs needs to be undertaken in the near future — I am already working on one, and I will likely conclude that his tenure was a mixed bag, which, for the Knicks, is nothing short of amazing. But stacking the deck with aging veterans isn’t something that I can ding him for. This is not to say that I was an ardent supporter of the ”geezer strategy,” but to assign blame soley to Grunwald would be foolhardy. In fact, if it’s true that Grunwald was consigned to advisory-purgatory for signing the likes of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Dirty Kurt, and the rest, his treatment would mark just the latest example of the Knicks’ capstone’s painful self-unawareness.
It all goes back to – wait for it – the Carmelo Anthony trade. Having parted with oodles of players and draft picks in that deal, Grunwald’s roster choices were reduced to the league’s table scraps. And he actually cooked up more than a few choice morsels, including Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland, and Pablo Prigioni. But a GM can only get so far by gambling on the low-risk-maybe-types when you must satiate the likes of ‘Melo, James Dolan and that certain rabid fanbase by winning RIGHT NOW. In that respect, Grunwald’s decision to supplement the Knicks with the Depends-crowd was absolutely justified.
Had the Knicks never parted with Wilson Chandler AND Danilo Gallinari AND Timofey Mozgov AND Corey Brewer AND Anthony Randolph AND Raymond Felton (who evetually came back at the expense of even more draft picks AND something called Jared Jeffries) AND a 2014 first round draft pick AND two other draft picks, Grunwald might not have been compelled to fill out his roster with any old NBA player (literally) who was willing to sign on the dotted line.
And the worst part is that New York didn’t have to jettison all those assets. If you believe, and I do, that ’Melo would only play for the Knicks, then he certainly would’ve washed up on the shores of the Hudson River as a free agent, anyway. Ironically, one can make the argument that ‘Melo’s faint praise-damnation of Lin (“[H]e’s a good young player that has a lot of potential and upside with time and experience.”) forced Grunwald to rush into a 39-year-old Jason Kidd’s welcoming embrace.
There are plenty of reasons to nitpick Grunwald, but if we’re meting out blame for the Knicks’ decision to go all geriatric last season, maybe those Dolanesque pink slips should have been delivered to some other MSG desks, too.