Glen Grunwald is off to a great start as interim-general manager. Adding Tyson Chandler was a great move. Getting rid of chronic three-point brickman Chauncey Billups was an even greater move. Grunwald’s first mistake however is a huge one. Knick free agent forward Shawne Williams has signed a 2 year $6 million contract with the rival New Jersey Nets. The importance of Shawne Williams should not be understated. This was a guy who played with a chip on his shoulder and gave his full effort every game. He’s not a perfect player by no means but for this team he would have been a near perfect role player.
What are the biggest needs of the team right now? Shooters and big bodies to boost the defense. What is Shawne Williams? A 6’9 shooter who hit 40% of his 3’s last year and can play 3 defensive positions. He was the ideal fit for this team. He brings defense, 3 point shooting and toughness. So why wasn’t he brought back?
The Knicks waited and waited and waited to bring Williams back. Getting Chandler was great but I believe their next move should have been to re-sign Williams. Instead, the Grunwald-led Knicks pursued luxury free agents. Free agent guards JJ Barea and Jamal Crawford were both offered contracts while Williams sat on the back burner. As he sat and waited, other teams offered him more lucrative contracts. Clearly Williams, if you look at his twitter account, wanted to return to the Knicks but he was forced to wait and wait. Are Barea and Crawford more dynamic bench scorers? Absolutely. Does this team need scorers over defenders? Absolutely not. And Williams is not inept offensively. He shot 40% from 3 last season. We need shooters. You hear talk about guys like Michael Redd and you hear that the Knicks need more shooters. You hear about Mo Evans (who we also struck out on) and Troy Murphy and how we need big defensive bodies. We could have kept Shawne Williams who fills both roles. Instead the Knicks failed to land Barea, Crawford and Williams and now are left with Renaldo Balkman and Billy “No Skills” as the backup small forwards.
Shawne Williams absolutely deserves a bit of blame. If he wanted to return so badly, he would have accepted less money to come back to the Knicks. However, I place 90% of the blame on the Knicks. Williams was a low salary project last season. He was coming off a season in which he hit an emotional high between getting a second chance in the league and playing a key role on a contender. It was a great story in every aspect. But Williams isn’t a multi-million dollar earning star. He played on a vet minimum last season. 2 million dollars is a lot of money to anyone but especially to a guy like that. By having Williams sit around and watch the team pursue free agent after free agent, the Knicks set themselves up to lose him. How can the Knicks claim a commitment to him when potentially they would have asked him to take another vet minimum? I can’t blame Williams fully because I believe he felt a bit betrayed and he had a better offer on the table. The Knicks should have made him a top priority and now they are left with a big void on the bench.
There is not a clear path for the Knicks go to here. I really have trouble believing they will go into the season with Balkman and Walker as the backup small forwards. I think Williams can be replaced but there does not seem to be a viable option out there right now. Losing Williams can be overcome but I really do believe he was a perfect fit for this team. The Knicks are now in free agent limbo at the small forward position and the hated Nets now have Williams. Glen Grunwald has done a great job so far but he really dropped the ball on this one.