Grunwald stands by his coach

MIKE KOREEN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

It could be worse for Glen Grunwald.

After all, it was not so long ago that the Kevin O'Neill light-smashing controversy was tops on the ex-Raptors general manager's agenda.

It's safe to say Grunwald, now the New York Knicks' senior vice-president of basketball operations, has a slightly better relationship with the coach of his new team, old Raptors buddy, Isiah Thomas.

Grunwald experienced more than his share of turmoil during his up-and-down tenure with the Raptors, so the little mess he entered in New York this season doesn't make him crave a return to the Toronto Board of Trade.

In fact, Grunwald, back home to see his family tonight in the Toronto area while his Knicks play host to the Raptors at Madison Square Garden, is maintaining a positive outlook despite all the negative vibes that seem to be a constant in the Big Apple.

"Even though we're obviously not happy with the won-lost record (6-12 after last night's loss in Detroit), Isiah has done a good job and changed the environment without a lot of change to the personnel," Grunwald said while driving down the 401. "We're making progress, but we're not where we want to be."

While Thomas and Co., were talking proud after November concluded with a road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, many feel the Knicks remain a ticking time bomb. It started with management declaring Thomas as coach this season after a feud-filled 2005-06 with Larry Brown as bench boss, and giving him just this season to turn around the team.

"It's always the case that you're under a lot of scrutiny and pressure in this league," said Grunwald, who has spent most weekends with his family, either in Toronto or New York. "I think it's helped (Thomas) focus a little more. He hasn't shown any signs of feeling that pressure."

But it certainly has not been smooth sailing this season. Supposed star guard Stephon Marbury scored in single digits in nine of the first 17 games and clearly disagreed with Thomas when he was benched for most of the second half in a game last weekend.

Then there was little guard Nate Robinson's showboat move in Cleveland, when he bounced the ball to himself for a dunk and was called for travelling, drawing the wrath of Thomas.

Add in injuries to Channing Frye (out three to six weeks with a sprained ankle) and Jared Jeffries (thumb) and you don't really have a probable formula for success. The only good news is the Knicks play in the awful Atlantic Division, like the Raptors, and that keeps them right in the thick of things.

"We have a lot of undervalued players because of the poor season last year," Grunwald said.

"But the players' attitudes have been great."


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