Knicks Tab Gallinari with 6th Pick of 2008 NBA Draft
The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden may have showered him with boos when his name was announced, but Danilo Gallinari did not seem to be bothered by it. The 19 year-old forward from Italy was chosen sixth overall by the New York Knicks in the 2008 NBA Draft and will come to a team in transition from the atrocious Isiah Thomas era.
"Forza New York and Forza Italia," Gallinari said during his press conference right after being selected. Speaking a heavily accented English, he seemed to have an understanding on why an unknown player would not be a popular pick. "It's a part of the game," Gallinari continued. "Not every time you can hear good things. It's my work to prove to everyone that I'm a good player. So that's everything on me."
During the 2007-08 season, Gallinari played in both the Euroleague and Italy A-1. With Armani Jeans Milano (A-1), he averaged 17.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 29 games. In 1q Euroleague contests, Gallinari had a 14.9 scoring average.
Coming to a team who's head coach speaks fluent Italian will give the 6'8", 210-pound rookie a level of comfort. "For sure, we can talk some Italian and it can come back," said Gallinari. "In the last few days, Italian journalists tell me that his Italian in the last five, six years has not done so well." His new coach is a former teammate of his father Vittorio at Milan.
Comfort has not been something that the Knicks have had the luxury of having of late. Knowing that coming in, Gallinari said, "I remember the time when (Patrick) Ewing was playing here and New York was doing so well. In the last two or three years, they didn't do so well, but I hope in the future that we can come back."
Where exactly does a player like Gallinari fit in on the Knicks' roster? He was the top International prospect on the board and is said to have good ball skills for a player his size. His outside shooting is not his strong point, which means that he needs to gain some size to make his way closer to the basket.
Expect some player movement on the Knicks roster, with Gallinari becoming the eighth forward on the team. There was a lot of speculation that David Lee was going to be moved before the draft, possibly for the fifth pick from the Memphis Grizzlies. That didn't occur, and the fan favorite may have become expendable with the Gallinari selection. They are similar players, and the value of Lee may be at its highest right now with his contract expiring at the end of next season.
Zach Randolph is another player in the front court that new team president Donnie Walsh would love to trade. Acquired one year ago during the 2007 NBA Draft, the former Trail Blazer had a few good moments and some not so good, often clashing with Thomas. The experiment of playing Randolph with center Eddy Curry did not fair too well, and will not occur again this season regardless if Walsh can dump Randolph's salary on someone else.
It may be some time before Gallinari's report card can be completed. But you can't blame the Knick faithful for being apprehensive. The last foreign player the organization picked in the first round? None other than Frederic Weis from France in 1999, who became synonymous with bad decisions and the Knicks.