July 2002: Raptors lose NateGate
Sometimes, you have to just take your lumps. Whether it’s firing an underperforming coach with years left on his deal, trading away a disgruntled player for half of his true value, or paying off a convenience store clerk after you crash your luxury SUV into his car while drunk and masterbating. Sunk costs are sunk; you make a mistake in the NBA, you pay for the consequences.
In 2002, Glen Grunwald tried to challenge this maxim after he made the mistake of signing Nate Huffman. Envisioned to be the teams backup center, Grunwald signed the 7-foot-1 Maccabi Tel Aviv star of to a 3-year-$5.2M contract. Huffman arrived in Toronto and promptly injured his knee during a pre-season scrimmage, putting the centre out for months with surgery. Furious that Huffman was (a) terrible when he was “healthy” and (b) seemingly damaged goods, the humiliated Grunwald tried to save face by terminating Huffman’s contract, claiming the player hid a prior knee injury. Huffman in turn sued for the remaining $2.56M on his contract, and the Raptors—staying true to form—lost.
But seriously, what the hell was Grunwald thinking? Huffman is one signature away from his first NBA contract, and the Raptor GM expects the career journeyman to volunteer the fact that his knee might feel kinda wonky? Isn’t Grunwald a goddamn lawyer? The last I checked NBA teams actually employ a medical staff and require free agents to pass physical examinations. Maybe Grunwald was convinced that since Huffman had the NBA logo tattooed on his shoulder, he must be ready for big time and waived the exam—even if the poorman's Kornel David was inked while playing for the CBA’s Idaho Stampede.
Well good luck in New York Glen, I’m just glad that we now have someone like Bryan Colangelo in charge. who won’t make the same mistake.