Slowly, methodically, Glen Grunwald has maneuvered through free agency this season, quietly rebuilding the Knicks team of last season, but with new key additions. Yesterday’s spell of signings signaled the Knicks’ desire and urgency to move forth in the standings and become a power to reckon with in the Eastern Conference.
Compared to offseasons past, this summer the Knicks have been quiet, rarely leaking their plans to any news outlets or media sources. There were the brief, hectic moments where it looked like the Knicks would land Steve Nash, but that was short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful. The Jason Kidd signing (it appears they will use the mini-MLE to acquire him) came out of nowhere, when they snatched him from under the Dallas Mavericks’ collective noses. The Knicks’ flurry of signings yesterday were a message to the league.
The Knicks retained the NBA’s leading three-point shooter, Steve Novak, for four years, $15 million. They acquired veteran center Marcus Camby in a sign-and-trade, giving up their young big men, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson, while also sending Toney Douglas and two future second round picks. They re-signed J.R. Smith, the feast or famine bench bomber to a two-year, $5.6-million deal, to fill the vacancy at the shooting guard position while Iman Shumpert rehabs from a torn ACL.
Work still needs to be done, but this Knicks team is coming together as a team that will have prior chemistry before the season began; a team that will have multiple weapons offensively and defensively; different looks with different rotations; a different level of success they could ultimately reach.
There were glimpses of indomitable depth last season before the injury bugs invaded the roster. For a time, the Knicks had the luxury of starting Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, while bringing Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Jared Jeffries off the bench to create a ten-man rotation. Though the assumed loss of Landry Fields will hurt, the Knicks have essentially replaced the oft-injured, rusty Davis with a future Hall of Fame point guard in Kidd (whose peers still think he has plenty of miles left in the tank), and added a veteran center in Camby who fills a need and still produces at a better level than most of his peers.
The Knicks still have holes remaining in their roster, of course. With the Camby sign-and-trade, the Knicks lost their two young backup big men. They still have Dan Gadzuric, but it’s assumed his $2 million unguaranteed contract will be used for another sign-and-trade. There’s mutual interest in Jared Jeffries returning to the Knicks, so that may be a move Grunwald and co. make in the coming days.
Likewise, the Knicks’ back court is fairly shallow. Lin and Kidd are the only two point guards on the roster, and one is coming off surgery for a torn meniscus; the other is 39-years old. With Iman Shumpert likely out until December or January, the Knicks’ next priority should be finding another shooting guard. They signed James White – a former NBA benchwarmer, and most recently, Euroleague player – but his ability to produce enough to get meaningful minutes is far from assured. A guard who can either defend the wing or knock down three-pointers (preferably both) would be a great fit, and the Knicks could likely find a number of cheap options available to fill that role.
In the meantime, the Knicks currently have a unit that could earn them a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. It may be strange to see as fans accustomed to interminable idiocy and frequent foolishness, but Glen Grunwald and the Knicks’ front office are quietly, effectively, intelligently building a strong, deep team.