By John Schmeelk
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For the first time in a long time, the Knicks were actually going to have some continuity and stability for consecutive years.
They were coming off a 54-win season, and their core rotation of Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were all going to be playing together for a second straight year. They added some veterans like Ron Artest, Andrea Bargnani and Beno Udrih to supplement that core, and with Mike Woodson as head coach. it was supposed to be a year to build upon what was already here.
Then James Dolan decided to change general managers for a reason known only to him. Trying to figure out the “why” behind his decisions is like trying to figure out why a hurricane sometimes just changes direction. It just seems to happen. Well, unfortunately for Glen Grunwald, Hurricane Dolan happened to hit him last week, and it was a Category 5. The man that had a huge part in turning the Knicks into a 54-win team lost his job. Considering the Knicks’ cap situation this offseason, it appeared like Grunwald did all he could to improve the team.
Perhaps he even tried too hard, when he traded a future first-rounder for Bargnani. Saddled with the monstrosity known as Stoudemire’s contract, he did the best he could. But apparently it was not good enough.
If it wasn’t for past basketball moves, was it perhaps for future moves that Dolan didn’t think Grunwald was capable of making? If reports are to be believed, Dolan doubted Grunwald had the charisma and gravitas to bring in high-priced free agents and hold onto a superstar like Anthony. Of course, the mere fact that Dolan thinks it’s more important to have a smooth-talking and operating “yes man” with no basketball experience — like Steve Mills — running his team rather than a real basketball man like Grunwald tells you all you need to know about how he runs his business.
He really thinks that having a slick guy like Mills — as opposed to an accomplished player-personnel guy like Grunwald — would help the Knicks land a player like LeBron James. Why would a star come to New York if he knew that the two people in charge of putting the team around him were Allan Houston and Mills? I wouldn’t. There’s no track record of success there. Pat Riley showed James that he knew how to win titles, and that’s why he went there.
For just a moment, I’m going to endeavor to do a little psychoanalyzing of the Knicks’ owner. If anyone has ever seen him interviewed — if you can remember back that far — or watched him during these press conferences, his discomfort is obvious. He’s an awkward guy and always has been. I think he enjoys surrounding himself with guys like Mills, Isiah Thomas, and William Wesley because they are cool and popular guys.
They are tied into the players and the league like he never could be, and he likes to think he is part of that world. He wants to be part of the in-crowd. That’s why an old guy like Donnie Walsh was never the right person for him, and neither was the reserved Grunwald. It’s the same psychology that caused Dolan to make himself the face of his own band, JD & The Straight Shot. What’s cooler than being the lead in a band? Nothing, Dolan probably believes.
I bet if you asked Dolan deep down, he believes that if the Knicks had a better “presentation” and “voice” when talking to James two years ago, he would be a Knick right now. He craves style over substance. Who besides Dolan cares if Mills gives a better interview than Glen Grunwald? It’s bad for the franchise.
The first day of camp should have been about who the Knicks would start. It should have been about how they would handle two defensively-deficient big men coming off the bench. It should have been about how much they would use two point-guard lineups. It should have been about how much Anthony would play the three and four this season. It should have been about Smith’s knee and suspension. Instead it is about another decision by Dolan that makes very little sense from those on the outside looking in. It won’t be about basketball, just like the decision to change general managers wasn’t.
The scary thing is that Dolan has become so obsessed with competing with the Nets that he will now be willing to trade some of the team’s young assets for overpriced veterans that will occupy cap space past 2015. You know Mills won’t say no to him, and neither will Houston, who is also a good soldier. Outside voices are a good thing. and now all of them are gone. Everyone in the Knicks’ hierarchy is a Dolan guy. They are not to defy him, and that’s a very scary proposition.
This is the way the Knicks’ season has to start. It’s so disappointing, but also so typical at the same time. Dolan would have it no other way.
– If the New York Daily News’ report is correct that Stoudemire had minor knee surgery in the offseason, his prospects are even dimmer. This would not be surprising considering at this point, Stoudemire’s knees are constructed of yarn, rickety wood and tightly-bunched lint. If he plays 40 games and averages more than 15 minutes, I’d be surprised.
– Here’s to hoping that Anthony figures out a way to settle his impending opt-out after the season quickly, so we aren’t hearing questions about it every day for months. He needs to put it to rest one way or another. That drama can’t be around the team all year.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees, the NFL and the NBA.
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