10. The Glen Grunwald Rebuild
- Donnie Walsh quit on June 3, 2011 and assistant GM Glen Grunwald inherited general management of the team. Grunwald was a 6’9 forward who played college ball at Indiana and was drafted by the Celtics but never made the NBA.
- Glenn Grunwald was a confusing name because the last Knicks NBA Finals appearance was ushered in by GM (and former Knick) Ernie Grunfeld. We started calling the new GM Glenn “Not Ernie Grunfeld” Grunwald.
Tyson Chandler Added to Complete the ‘Big 3’
- Grunfeld added Tyson Chandler as the 3rd “big” free agent — joining Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire — with the cap space that Donnie Walsh had opened up by dumping the entire previous roster for nothing in return. Chandler was not actually a free agent signing, but the result of a 3-team trade with Dallas and Washington. The Knicks gave up Ronny Turiaf, Andy Rautins, and two 2nd-round picks.
Hired Mike Woodson as Defensive Coach; Eventually Made Him Head Coach
- Hired Mike Woodson as an assistant coach to Mike D’Antoni soon after taking over. Woodson had been a successful head coach in Atlanta, known for instilling good defense. When Mike D’Antoni quit on March 12, 2012 — near the end of Grunwald’s first season as GM — Mike Woodson was named interim coach. Grunwald made Woodson the official head coach on May 25 — after season ended.
Ushered in the Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak Eras
- Signed Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak as free agents in late December, 2011 — ushering in both the Jeremy Lin era and the Steve Novak era at the same time.
Ushered in the JR Smith Era
- Signed J.R. Smith on February 17, 2012 — in the middle of the Jeremy Lin era — ushering in the J.R. Smith era.
Loaded Up on Aging Stars and Made the 54-Win, 2012-13 Playoff Run
- Grunwald then loaded up on aging stars for the 2012-13 season:
- Traded Toney Douglas and Jerome Jordan for 38-year-old Marcus Camby,
- Signed 39-year-old Jason Kidd as a free agent. Kidd was a key acquisition — he led the team to a great start and great finish to the season. In the middle 40 games, Kidd looked 39 and the Knicks played .500 ball. When he played well, Kidd not only orchestrated, but was the glue to Woodson’s complex switching defense — often intercepting passes in late game situations.
- Signed 37-year-old Pablo Prigioni as a free agent.
- And finally, just as the season was about to start on October 4, 2012 –signed 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace as a free agent. Rasheed played fantastic ball and helped get NY out to an 18-5 start to the season, but then went down with an injury and missed most of the rest of the year.
- Also picked up 28-year-old Chris Copeland as an unknown free agent.
- Picked up 35-year-old Kenyon Martin in late February 2013 after it became apparent that both Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby were not coming back from injuries.
- Drafted Tim Hardaway Jr with the #24 pick of the 2013 NBA draft.
The Bargnani Trade
- Before being let go — Grunwald managed the team during the summer of 2013, and made one famous mistake:
- Traded Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and a 2016 1st-round draft pick (7’1 Jakob Poeltl would later be selected at #9 overall) for Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani Flopped in NY — and is considered to be a player who didn’t live up to his big contract — but Bargnani had 2 years left on his contract at $11 million a year. Not so much money even in 2013. Bargnani was 28 years old when NY acquired him — a former #1 overall pick who had seasons of 21 ppg and 19 ppg in Toronto. In NY he averaged 14 ppg in 2 injury-filled seasons.
The draft pick ended up yielding a good player in Poeltl, who is just now coming into his own, averaging 13 ppg as a 26-yr-old center for San Antonio at this writing. When the Knicks made the trade they were coming off consecutive playoff seasons and a 54-win campaign — Grumwald didn’t conceive that everything would fall apart and in 3 years the pick would be #9 overall. And even so, many #9 picks do not become good players in the NBA. The Bargnani trade was a reasonable gamble that didn’t pay off.
- The Jeremy Lin era.
- When Mike D’Antoni quit just before the season ended on March 14, 2012, Grunwald named Woodson the head coach and the Knicks blasted Portland in his first game, 121–79. The Knicks went 18-6 in the final 24 games of the year under Woodson, after having gone 18-24 under D’Antoni. The Jeremy Lin era was already over due to his knee meniscus issue, and the JR Smith/Carmelo Anthony era had begun.
The 54-Win Campaign
- The 54-28 playoff season of 2012-2013, an Atlantic Division title, a first-round victory over the Boston Celtics in 6 games, and a hard-fought but ultimately disappointing round-2 loss to the Indiana Pacers in 6 games (wherein the Knicks coulda/shoulda won game 6 — the Melo drive to the basket blocked by Roy Hibbert forever etched in Knick fan minds).
- Can Grunwald get all the credit for the 2012-13 season? He gets most of it — Walsh had brought in Carmelo Anthony (but gutted the previous roster including Zach Randolph for nothing in return to do so) but it was Grunwald who made the major changes that resulted in the 54-win campaign — bringing in coach Woodson who stressed Defense, Jason Kidd to orchestrate, Rasheed Wallace to lead at the beginning of 2012-13, JR Smith and other key players (Kenyon Martin, etc).
- Amar’e Stoudemire only played 29 games during the 2012-13 season, missing the beginning of the year and the end of the regular season (right-knee ‘debridement’) and the 1st-round win over the Celtics. He returned in game 3 of the series against the Indiana Pacers.
- Grunfeld had an eye for talent — pulling Jeremy Lin out of nowhere, Chris Copeland too, and drafting Tim Hardaway Jr with a #24 pick. Bargnani was a big mistake however.
- Oddly enough both Ernie Grunfeld and Glen “Not Ernie Grunfeld” Grunwald knew the value of Marcus Camby — Grunfeld having traded an aging Charles Oakley for a young Marcus Camby who helped the Knicks to the 1999 finals, and Grunwald bringing Camby back to the Knicks as an old man — after Scott Layden had famously traded Camby and the #7 pick (Knicks were rumored to be picking Stoudemire but picked Nene for Denver) in the 2003 draft for Antonio McDyess and his 2 (soon to be 4) knee surgeries — one of the worst Knick trades ever.
- After all that goodness and getting the Knicks back into the playoffs with Defense — albeit with a team that was old at the seams — Grunwald was let go on September 26, 2013. Steve Mills took over control as GM as well as President. The Bargnani trade was a gamble and a mistake but overall Grunwald did a good job as GM.
- The Knicks would go 37-45 in the 2013-14 season, without Jason Kidd who retired — he was the glue that made Woodson’s complex switching defense work; other Knicks like JR Smith always seemed to leave their man wide open at the 3.
- Mills searched for a new GM and hired big fish Phil Jackson in March, 2014, and it was on to the next rebuild.
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