As the NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday afternoon, the Knicks added Kenyon Martin, traded Ronnie Brewer and held on to Iman Shumpert.
Speaking on a conference call Thursday evening, GM Glen Grunwald used the word “optimistic” numerous times and said he believes the moves will help the struggling Knicks as they move toward the playoffs.
Since an 18-5 start, the Knicks (32-19) are 14-14 in their last 28 games, including Wednesday’s embarrassing 125-91 loss at Indiana.
Grunwald said the Knicks added the 6-9 Martin, a former teammate of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby and Raymond Felton in Denver and of Jason Kidd with the Nets, as “insurance” against the declining health of aging and injured bigs Camby and Rasheed Wallace.
Grunwald said Martin, 35, had agreed to a 10-day contract and, “We’re hopeful that will turn into the rest of the season.” It remains unclear if Martin will be able to suit up in time for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia at Madison Square Garden.
“In a sense this is a little bit of insurance but we’re also expecting Rasheed and Marcus to come back and play this year,” Grunwald said.
With the addition of Martin, the Knicks now have six players 35 or older. When Kidd turns 40 next month, they will have two 40-year-olds.
“We’ve always liked Kenyon, he’s a great competitor and a good defender and he’s played with a number of our players on the Knicks so we think that there will be some synergies already built into the mix,” Grunwald said. “We’re just looking forward to adding another good defender who will help us in our quest this season.”
Martin averaged 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds with the Clippers last season and holds career averages of 13 points and 7.1 rebounds.
“We think that Kenyon is more than just a big man,” Grunwald said. “We think he’s a very verstaile defender who can guard at least three positions. So we’re looking to build some flexibility into our roster, not just to add another big man.”
The Knicks cleared roster space for Martin by dealing Brewer to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a second-round pick in 2014 and cash. Grunwald said Brewer, who was the team’s opening-day starting small forward before losing his starting spot, “did not demand the trade.”
“Ronnie had fallen out of the playing rotation and he’s a great guy and a good player,” Grunwald said. “And an opportunity came up where a very good situation like the Oklahoma City Thunder were very interested in him and we wanted to help him out as best we could and put him in a good situation.”
Grunwald said Shumpert had taken many of Brewer’s minutes and “we want to invest the development time in Shump” and said there was nothing “particular that Ronnie did wrong.”
Despite ongoing rumors that the Knicks might deal Shumpert for J.J. Redick or Paul Millsap, Grunwald denied that he was ever on the block.
“There were no trade discussions with Shump,” he said. “I don’t want to go into any details but as we’ve said many times, Shump’s a key part of our future and we’re happy to have him back. He’s had a great rehab and is obviously coming back from a difficult injury. Maybe he’s not at 100 percent yet, but we’re very optimistic that with his work ethic and attitude that he will be back to his old self very shortly.”
On the Shumpert trade rumors, Grunwald added: “I’m sure a lot of teams are interested in him, but no more than the New York Knicks.”
“We’re not concerned,” he said. “I’m confident that our team and the players including Jason will get back to where they were.”
Grunwald used the word “optimistic” numerous times when describing the team’s chances going forward.
“We’re optimistic,” he said. “Obviously, we have to play better. We’ve had some difficult games and teams will go through that and I’m optimistic that Woody [coach Mike Woodson], the coaching staff and the players will find a way to get back to their winning ways.
“And we’re hopeful that we’ll get back to playing winning basketball again.”