But Thursday’s front-office shakeup is not really about Mills or Grunwald, the Knicks’ recent past or the season that will soon be underway. This is about Carmelo Anthony, next summer and the summer after that.
Anthony can opt out of his contract in July, and the franchise is rightfully fearful that—despite his public statements to the contrary—he might walk away. The Knicks are carrying an expensive, capped-out roster, peppered with misfits and fragile veterans. Their window to contend in the Eastern Conference might already be closing. It would slam shut if Anthony flees next summer.
As one rival team executive said of Thursday’s moves: “It was all to keep Carmelo.”
The same executive said he believed that, if the decision had to be made now, Anthony would leave.
Anthony is said to be agitating for change, for help on the court, for reassurance that the Knicks are capable of acquiring elite talent. If he elects to stay next summer, it will have to be with the confidence that the Knicks can land another star in 2015, when they are expected to have millions in cap room.
This is what the front office move might have been about with the hiring of Steve Mills and the dismissal of Glen Grunwald. It makes sense in every possible way. Melo has to be able to buy into the Knicks future of the roster, already knowing that they are cash strapped for now but will be cap friendly in the 2015 season when Tyson, Bargnani and Stoudemire come off the cap. If Melo opts out and re-signs for his max possible deal per league rules, then he needs to be assured the Knicks are in good hands, and will make the proper moves for the future.
Was Grunwald the right guy? It’s hard to tell without being inside the Knicks brain trust. He is a great talent evaluator, but he is not the high-profile GM that New York might need to lure free agents, and keep Melo in the orange and blue.