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The Strange Tale of Glen Grunwald

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Life sure is strange sometimes.

From Anna Nicole Smith marrying her former attorney in a ceremony that was not actually legally binding, to finding out last night that Gangsta Rap pioneer Schooly D (a memeber of the infamous Park Side Killers gang) cancelled his show to tend to his Mom - sometimes you just have to stop and wonder.

After reading yesterday that Glen Grunwald was actually going to join Isiah Thomas as the Senior VP of basketball operations for the New York Knicks, I really had to stop and pause.

Thomas and Grunwald of course go all the way back to the University of Indiana where they were co-captains on the 1981 NCAA Championship team. Then, while Isiah Thomas was still leading the hopes and dreams of Toronto's expansion franchise, he hired Grunwald and after Thomas headed south of the border, Grunwald was left to run the show. Grunwald spent seven seasons with the Raptors and while his contract as GM was not renewed after the Raptors' 2003-04 season, he was responsible for many of the Raptors "highs" including three consecutive playoff appearances at one point. However even after his dismissal from the Raptors, Grunwald remained in Toronto taking a job with the Board of Trade and it seemed like Grunwald had found his new calling. But Isiah Thomas' move from the front-office back to the bench where he will coach the Knicks this upcoming season changed all that. Thomas decided he needed some front-office help and reached out to his former right-hand man.

And man, Thomas is going to need all the help he can get.

At present, the Knicks payroll sits at about $140 million and this payroll bought the team only 23 wins last season. In addition, New York has the league's biggest mish-mash of egos and defensively lax players. The likes of Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry and Jalen Rose were unable to mesh last season and couldn't co-exist with head coach Larry Brown either.

And speaking of Rose, deciding what to do with him in the final year of his mammoth contract, will be tops on Grunwald's to-do list. Ironically, it was Grunwald while still the Raptors' GM, who traded FOR Rose...and now he may have to ship him out.

So considering the mess that is the New York Knicks, why would Grunwald take this job? After all, owner James Dolan expects a major improvement this season and if Thomas fails in righting the ship, owner James Dolan will in all likelyhood be showing Thomas and his associates the door.

The only answer I could come up with was that Grunwald misses the game and loves a challenge.

How else can you explain it?

Teams like the Bulls, Celtics and our own Raptors have fallen on hard-times lately but the Knicks have truly become the league's laughingstock. Hey, maybe the way Grunwald sees it is that there's nowhere for the team to go but up!

Admittedly, the Knicks do have talent, possibly more than the majority of teams that missed the playoffs last year. And I think that Isiah will be able to get the Knicks to play a more up-tempo offensive style to maximize the talents of the players he has thus resulting in more wins. Making the playoffs? I still think that's a big stretch - unless maybe Eddy Curry morphs into Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Francis into Dwyane Wade.

But Grunwald's a smart guy.

He was always a reasonably good evaluator of talent in Toronto and if Vince Carter had had the heart of say, a former number 8 with the Lakers, perhaps Grunwald would still be running the show here. Glenn is also a tireless worker and while he certainly has his work cut out for him considering the Knicks salary situation and lack of young prospects, the possesor of an MBA, a law degree, and an honours business degree in marketing knows a little about putting the nose to the grindstone so to speak. With the Knicks he'll be handling most of the front-office duties of an NBA GM as Isiah Thomas will be focussed more on coaching the team. Grunwald will also be asked to evaluate talent and veto any of Isiah's trade ideas.

Ok...maybe not veto...but at least try to dissuade him. After all, Isiah for all his "draft success," has acquired the likes of Jerome James, Jalen Rose, a creaky Quentin Richardson, Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor...all of whom were being or were then paid a king's ransom.

And the first casualty of the Grunwald regime seems to be Taylor. The Knicks have reportedly bought-out Taylor who was still owed $9 million this season and who was essentially hindering the development of young forwards David Lee and Channing Frye.

But perhaps the toughest challenge awaiting Grunwald won't come from on-court issues. Currently the Knicks are embroiled in two major lawsuits; a wrongful dismissal case courtesy of their former head coach Larry Brown and a sexual harrassment suit regarding Isiah Thomas' conduct with a former Knicks' official. Can Grunwald help provide enough success on-court to help hide these off-court issues?

I hope he can.

In fact as much as I've despised the Knicks these past few years under Thomas, I'm pulling for Grunwald to succeed. It may take a few years for the Knicks to dig themselves out of the hole that previous management dug, but I think Grunwald is up to the challenge and given the chance, can succeed where others have failed.

And hopefully with Grunwald's hiring this puts an end to ANY suggestions of Kenyon Martin becoming a Knick...