Here’s the truth: NBA players want to win and they want to make money. Often, they are put in the position where they have to choose between the two. With New York City, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, Grunwald’s job of recruiting players is a bit easier than Kevin Pritchard’s in Indianapolis, for example. So getting players like Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Ronnie Brewer and Martin to sign for minimum dollars becomes easier, but as a GM, you still have to sell the players on your vision and on their ability to be successful with the franchise.
So do not be so quick to dismiss Grunwald’s overall management of the Knicks roster and franchise as some sort of coincidence.
If you do, that wreaks, too. Of bias.
Lin was not retained and Novak was given too rich of a deal. His acquisition of Marcus Camby was somewhat questionable, but the re-acquisition of Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas and the signing of Jason Kidd are all great, high-value moves.
And though the latter three are each battling injury issues and the GeriatKnicks are limping toward the playoffs, the club is in the midst of a late-season surge and is in a good position to capture the first division crown since Iman Shumpert was a toddler.
And you know why? It is really because of Kenyon Martin.
The Knicks are 6-2 with Martin as a starter, but both of those losses came without Anthony—who missed three straight games with a knee injury. In other words, the Knicks are undefeated when Martin and Anthony start together. And they are giving up just 90.2 points per game over the current winning stretch.
It is a small sample size, but thus far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
This column was originally designed to heap praise upon Martin—who has helped the Knicks to redefine themselves as a defensive team. Even at 35-years old and even though he is fresh off a stint in China, Martin has already proven that he is two times the defender Stoudemire is, though he sorely lacks the jump shot. He still has his timing, athleticism and tenacity, though. And overall, he makes the Knicks a better team.
Rather than solely credit Martin for that, it is fair to credit the man who gave him the opportunity.
That would be Grunwald.
During his tenure, first as an interim general manager, Grunwald has pulled pieces out of thin air. Now, today, the Knicks have a pretty solid (even if old) core featuring Felton, Kidd, Chandler, Novak and Smith surrounding Anthony and Stoudemire.
Chris Copeland seems to be a player who should be kept around and Martin—though he will be a free agent come July—is just the latest.
If you want to nitpick, you could certainly argue that while acquiring Marcus Camby seemed to be a good move, Grunwald gave up too much (I did make that argument), but even I will admit that doing so may be premature since we all know that Camby was brought in to help the Knicks in the playoffs.
And if you want to complain about moves that Grunwald has made, you would be well within your right, just be sure to recall that Pablo Prigioni and Ronnie Brewer were two other players that Grunwald pulled out of thin air. Prigioni has given the Knicks good minutes this season and Brewer, though he was ultimately traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, netted the Knicks a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. The jury is still out on that latter one.
No general manager is perfect, and if you dig deep enough, you can certainly find a botched draft pick here or a trade or two that did not quite work out there.
Instead, the challenge is to measure a general manager by the totality of his body of work. Measure the total amounts of hits and misses, and if you do that with Grunwald, you will see, easily, that he has not only proven himself to be a capable general manager in the NBA; he may be responsible for helping to end a 20-year drought in New York City.
No, the Knicks are not expected to beat the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and they may not even get the opportunity to challenge them. But considering where this franchise was immediately before Grunwald took over, that we can even have such a conversation is indicative of evident progress.
And no matter what, someone needs to be credited for that.
It may as well be the man who built it.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops whose columns appear here on Tuesdays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton