So we now have an answer to the age-old philosophical question: If an invisible GM falls in the forest -- or is, essentially, slung to the back of the pasture -- does he make a noise?
Especially if he rarely ever made one before?
It always seemed a little odd, the way the Knicks kept layers of bubble wrap around Glen Grunwald, the way they kept him sequestered -- away from the press, away from telephones, away from microphones. It always felt as if the team's general manager was working out of the witness protection program from an undisclosed location in New Hampshire.
General managers in New York tend to be loquacious sorts. George Young was always good for a pithy observation, Ernie Accorsi for an immediate historical perspective. Brian Cashman is available regularly. Billy King isn't unfamiliar with a camera lens. Sandy Alderson has even taken to Twitter a time or two.
As for Donnie Walshwell, you pretty much had to stuff a sock in his mouth to keep him off the record. And the Knicks probably considered that.
Grunwald? Most Knicks fans couldn't pick him out of a lineup these past two years, as he assembled in privacy and virtual anonymity two playoff teams, one of which rose to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference last year. This was a man who was, by all accounts (at least when there was proof of life) smart, funny, engaging.
And yet the Knicks never let him out to play.
There was never much public praise from his bosses as he put together pieces that pushed the Knicks past 50 wins last season. He was never elevated to the title of "President," which was unusual.
An NBA executive last year told me: "His job description seems more 'caretaker' than 'general manager.' "
He could have added "temp," too.
So Grunwald is stricken from the Knicks' masthead now, and an old stand-by named Steve Mills is reinstalled as both GM and president, and since Mills' expertise is mostly contained to the business side of sports we can safely assume the Knicks' basketball responsibilities will be divided among Allan Houston, Mark Warkentien and John Gabriel, with Houston the likely heir to the GM's chair.
As always with the Knicks, fan reaction tends to be simple and viewed through a very basic prism:
And, because there remain trust issues between the Knicks and their fans, the first reaction is always an assumption of falling skies. Look, it isn't as if Isiah Thomas' influence had been completely stricken from the Knicks as it was. Grunwald and Isiah go back to Indiana. So do Isiah and Mike Woodson.
It was interesting to listen to Knicks fans try to generate a substantial amount of outrage about this transaction, in truth, because so much of it, as always, revolves around the terrifying image of Isiah one day walking triumphantly back into the director's chair. And look, it's always dangerous to ever say never. But it's awfully difficult to believe anyone with the Knicks wants to revisit that -- especially Mills, whose glaring blotch on an otherwise credible professional resume reads thusly: "Hired Isiah Thomas."
After all, the guy who hired Chevy Chase to do a talk show has never hired Chevy Chase to do another talk show, right?
The timing is what rings curious, especially since Knicks owner James Dolan seemed a few notes less than enthused when he was asked at the All-Star press conference Wednesday to assess his team's chances. The Knicks were outdone by the Nets in the offseason, passed by at least two or three others as well.
As good as Grunwald was in making the Knicks respectable the past few years, the biggest transaction to date on his watch was bringing Andrea Bargnani to town -- and while the season may change this, it isn't as if there were a lot of Knicks fans who likened that deal with Bellamy-and-Komives-for-DeBusschere when it happened.
And so they're lying if they tell you they think the Knicks just demoted Red Auerbach. The Knicks are still on probation with so many of their fans, even when they turn out to be right on decisions such as Jeremy Lin. The first step is always to believe the worst. And there's a word that will always easily explain that: