Glen Grunwald had the "interim" removed from his title a few weeks ago and Mike Woodson will have it dropped from his soon. Now the hard work begins for two members of the Knicks' brain trust.
They were rewarded for making the playoffs in this lockout-condensed and turmoil- and injury-filled season. But just making the playoffs isn't enough, not when $53 million is tied up in next season's salaries for Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
Grunwald, the Knicks' general manager, will have to find and add players capable of helping the Knicks win a playoff series -- something they haven't done since 2000 -- and go deep in the postseason.
Woodson, the coach, has to figure out how to make the offense less predictable, more all-inclusive. But his biggest challenges remain meshing the talents of Anthony and Stoudemire to win consistently and getting the two of them to defend consistently.
The Knicks said they will be better and will compete with the top teams in the East just from having a full training camp together. They should hope Grunwald and Woodson don't share in that thought process.
"I don't think it's that big of a gap," Chandler said, echoing what most of his teammates said. "We're very explosive. We just need some fine-tuning. I think we're right there."
The Knicks need to markedly improve their backcourt and their bench -- with limited resources.
They have no first-round pick, and unless they can move Douglas for one, the Knicks might not want to buy one and get locked into more guaranteed money. As it stands, they have the midlevel exception (roughly $5.5 million) and $1.9 million biannual exception for free agency. Most -- if not all -- of the midlevel probably will go to Jeremy Lin, a restricted free agent who Woodson said "absolutely" will be back. That would leave Grunwald with about $1.9 million for unrestricted free agent Steve Novak or other players. The Knicks also have to make decisions on restricted free agent Landry Fields and J.R. Smith, if he doesn't pick up his $2.5-million player option.
The bottom line: Grunwald will have to be creative with trades and in free agency to seriously address the backcourt.
Shumpert is the only guard in the rotation signed for next season. He started 35 games and recently had knee surgery that could sideline him until December or January.
Lin started 25 NBA games, and Woodson sounds as if he wants a more experienced point guard because he feels a sense of urgency to win now. Anthony will be 28 later this month. Stoudemire and Chandler turn 30 early next season. All have plenty of mileage on their bodies. "It's all about winning," Woodson said. "My clock is ticking, just like a lot of these players' clocks are ticking. You've got to try to figure it out in a short period of time, man, and that's what I'm about, and if I'm here, that's what I'm going to push players to be about. We don't have a lot of time."
Steve Nash would be the perfect fit for the Knicks at point guard, but they probably don't have the money to sign him. Other possibilities could include Jason Kidd, Ramon Sessions, Mo Williams, Raymond Felton and Lou Williams, but money remains an issue.
Anthony said he would prefer not to be involved in personnel decisions. He said of the front office, "That's why them guys get paid the big bucks, too."
And this offseason, they're going to earn it.
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