Thank You Donnie Walsh

     As Donnie Walsh departs at the end of the business day Thursday, he deserves praise and thanks from anybody who calls themselves a Knick fan. Despite his clash with Dolan, Walsh successfully turned the biggest laughing stock in the league to a team on the rise anchored by two superstars. He transformed Madison Square Garden from a place riddled with losing, debt and sexual harassment charges to a positive environment that is filled with hope for the first time since the Ewing era. Today is a day that we should look at the great things Walsh has done for our favorite team. Lets put into perspective what Walsh’s accomplishments were.

2008-2009 Season
     Walsh takes over a team, fresh off the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment suit, with a 130+ million dollar payroll. Walsh fires Isiah Thomas and signs Mike D’Antoni to a 4 year 24 million dollar deal. With the 6th pick in the draft, Walsh selects Danilo Gallinari from Italy who blossoms into a quality player and a fan favorite. On November 21, 2008, Walsh orchestrates the two trades that serve as a launching pad for the entire rebuilding process. In one trade, Walsh trades Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington. In the other trade, Walsh flips Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley. Both moves are created to clear the salary cap for the 2010 off season in which LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer are free agents. On Feb 24, 2009 the Knicks and cancerous point guard Stephon Marbury agree on a buyout thus removing him from the organization. The Knicks win 9 more games than in 2007 and finish 32-50.

2009-2010 Season
     On June 25, 2009, Walsh trades Quentin Richardson to Memphis for cash considerations and center Darko Milicic. In the 2009 draft, Walsh selects Arizona forward Jordan Hill with the 8th selection and trades a second rounder and cash to the Lakers for the rights to Florida State shooting guard Toney Douglas. On Feb 18, Walsh makes 2 more great trades. He flips Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries (and his horrific contract), a 2012 first round pick and the right to flip picks in 2011 to Houston for Tracy McGrady and his expiring contract. Then he trades Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry to Boston for expiring contracts Eddie House and JR Giddens as well as Bill Walker and a second round pick. These trades create a plethora of expiring contracts on the roster with Eddy Curry being the only Thomas holdover that was impossible to deal. The Knicks finish the season with a 29-53 record but go into the off season with millions to spend and increased optimism.

2010-2011 Season
     In the 2010 draft, the Knicks select Syracuse guard Andy Rautins and Stanford guard Landry Fields in the 2nd round. They also trade cash considerations to Milwaukee for their second round selection, Tulsa center Jerome Jordan. July 8, 2010 provides the first building block in Walsh’s vision as he is able to sign Amare Stoudemire to a 5 year, 102 million dollar contract. The next day, David Lee is signed and traded to Golden State for Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph, Kelena Azubuike and a 2010 second round pick. Free agents Timofey Mozgov, Shawne Williams, Raymond Felton and Roger Mason Jr are signed before the end of the off season. In a surprise, Shawne Williams makes the squad over Patrick Ewing Jr. On Feb 5, 2011 Mark Warkentien is brought on by Walsh as director of pro player personnel. February 22 provides Walsh’s club a second superstar. The Knicks trade Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a future first round pick, 2 second round picks, cash and the right to swap 2016 first round picks to the Denver Nuggets for superstar Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. Minnesota is also involved in the deal as the Knicks send Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to Minnesota for Corey Brewer. Walsh had been hesitant to give up the kitchen sink for Melo and co. but it’s widely believed that the Dolan/Thomas marriage sabotaged Walsh’s plan and jumped in to complete the contract. Nevertheless, the Knicks acquire their second superstar. On March 1st, the Knicks wave Corey Brewer, sign Jared Jeffries and claim Derrick Brown off waivers. The Knicks finish 42-40 and make the eastern conference playoffs as the 6 seed.

2011 Offseason
     Walsh is widely reported to be returning but on June 3rd, the Knicks announce that they will be parting ways with Walsh. Donnie, being the class act he is, says all the right things in the media and that it was a “mutual” agreement. While it may have been “mutual”, it was because of Dolan’s ignorance and tyrannical ways. He did not want to give Walsh the full autonomy that he deserved and wanted to run the team as he saw fit. Walsh runs the 2011 draft as the Knicks select Georgia Tech  point guard Iman Shumpert in the first round and purchase the rights to Kentucky center Josh Harrellson in the second round. On June 31, Walsh’s contract expires and he steps down from his general manager position. He will remain as a consultant.

Perspective
     Donnie Walsh did wonders for this team. He took Isiah’s crazy house of an organization and transformed it into a winning team with tons of hope for the future. He cleared the payroll and filled it with superstars. Who knows what kind of deal we could have gotten for Carmelo if Dolan hadn’t stepped in. We may have been able to keep one or two more players. Walsh’s firing, although said to be “mutual” but it was a firing, shows just how incompetent James Dolan is as an owner. The man has no clue what he is doing and did Walsh an egregious injustice by not allowing him to finish what he started. As appalling as this whole ending has been, Walsh continues to handle the set of circumstances he has been given with class. He was the savior that this team needed. Even with an egotistic owner interfering with his  job, Walsh was able to make the Knicks winners again. For that alone, we must be thankful. Donnie Walsh deserves much better then how James Dolan has treated him but as fans we must give him our thanks. He’s made our team exciting, he’s given us hope and he’s made us winners. Thank you Donnie Walsh. Knick fans everywhere know what you did for our club and we appreciate it.

Lets follow @AnthonyMSG and get #ThanksDonnie trending on twitter.

Image via Bleacher Report

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Knick Fans, Meet Glen Grunwald

     At the close of business Thursday, NBA front office legend Donnie Walsh will be stepping down from the Knicks front office to take a “consulting” role with the team. Given his clash with clown owner James Dolan, it’s unknown how much say Walsh will really have. What is known is that the interim general manager will be Walsh right hand man and former Toronto Raptors GM Glen Grunwald. The journey of Glen Grunwald is an interesting one. To me, he seems like a man who has paid his dues and has plenty of basketball experience as both a player and a front office man. Him and Isiah Thomas, yes that Isiah Thomas, were co-captains on Indiana’s 1981 championship team. He was drafted in the 5th round by the Celtics but never played in the NBA. Grunwald graduated from Northwestern with a law degree and Indiana with a Business Administration degree. After spending time with the Nuggets, Grundwald’s first big job came as Isiah’s right hand man when Thomas was hired as the Raptors general manager during their 1994 inception. In 1997 Thomas’ bid to become owner in Toronto failed and he resigned. Grunwald was hired as GM. He made many successful personnel moves, such as trading for Vince Carter, Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis and trading Damon Stoudamire away, in building a winner out of a perennial lottery team. He built a strong team around Vince Carter and they made the playoffs from 1999-2002. His veteran teams got old and injury riddled quickly and began to lose games. In the 2004 draft, Grunwald selected Chris Bosh fourth overall and the team fell just short of the 8th seed in the eastern conference. Grunwald was then fired. He became the President and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade before returning to Isiah Thomas’ side as senior VP of basketball operations with the Knicks in 2006. When Thomas was relieved of his duties in 2008, Donnie Walsh was brought in and kept Grunwald in the same position he held under Thomas. Now Walsh is the one who is leaving and Grunwald is now the man in charge. Although the Isiah Thomas friendship and prior experience is obviously alarming for Knick fans, I’ve read numerous times from different writers that Grunwald is not seen as a Thomas loyalist by anybody around the league. It will be interesting to see if Grunwald has big enough balls to stand up to the Thomas-Dolan marriage. Clearly Walsh could not get what he needed out of the moronic owner, it remains to be seen if Grunwald will be able to. The people in place right now seem to be Grunwald’s people so there shouldn’t be much of a transition or dispute over personnel as we know Dolan rules the organization with his moronic tyrannical ways. While Walsh was calling the shots, I believe Grunwald has had a bigger role in both free agent recruiting and personnel decisions than anybody has been led on to believe. Grunwald does have ties to CAA which has to appeal to Dolan as he seems to be inclined to let the agency run the entire organization. Grunwald’s ties to Thomas and CAA would seemingly make him a strong candidate to be hired as the general manager once the upcoming lockout is resolved.

     Grunwald’s goal is simple: Build a supporting cast around Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. The goal seems simple but it may not be. Thanks to Walsh, Grunwald no longer has to build the team but he needs to surround the building blocks with talent. Given his past history of personnel decisions, I feel somewhat confident in his abilities. While he’s not seen as an Isiah disciple, the looming dark cloud of Thomas’ influence is still surrounding the organization and Grunwald’s prior relationship with him scares me. If anything Grunwald’s tenure should be interesting but beware Knick fans, the job is far from finished. As Dallas showed Miami in the finals, basketball is still a team sport and basketball is played with 5 men at a time, not 2 or 3. If the Knicks don’t build the right supporting cast, this team will never reach the pinnacle that Knick fans expect it to each.

 

Image via NBA.com