New York Knicks Summer League: Danilo Gallinari Falters, Then Triumphs

David CohenSenior Analyst IJuly 14, 2008

With Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Donnie Walsh, Mike D’Antoni, and even Stephon Marbury in attendance, the Knicks debuted their new up-tempo offense in Las Vegas, and edged out a 97-94 victory over the Cavs in their first summer-league game.

Wilson Chandler looked like the player who flourished at the end of last season, and was consistently New York’s best player on the floor. He showcased every facet of his game, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Incumbent Mardy Collins had a nice game, scoring 17, with six rebounds and five assists. Former Gator and current NBA journeyman Anthony Roberson had 22 points off 19 shots. Roberson was signed to a deal shortly after the game.

But the Knicks fans and the front office were at the game to see one player and one player only—Danilo Gallinari

Gallinari got off to a bad start. Within the first three minutes, he had two fouls and two turnovers. He finished the half with no points, three fouls, and three turnovers.

He looked like a scrub who had no business on an NBA team. He seemed overpowered by the bottom of the NBA, and the likes of Robert “Tractor” Traylor were bouncing him around.

The next quarter started with a great block for Danilo—followed by more problems. With three minutes left in the quarter, he had four fouls, four turnovers, and no points. He looked like a train wreck.

Then suddenly—and finally—the potential shined

First, he helped recover a broken play and hit a nice jumper at the end of the shot clock on the wing. Then, after a missed three-pointer, he came back and had a nice follow-up dunk.

That got him going. Shortly thereafter, Danilo posted up and made a nice up-and-under move to get to the line, where he calmly knocked down two free throws. Gallinari finished the quarter with a sideline jumper just inside the three-point line with three seconds left.

Suddenly he had eight points and five rebounds. Not bad.

Gallinari then continued his hot streak at the start of the fourth. He knocked down a jumper on the Knicks' first possession of the quarter. Later on, he swished another.

Then, with just over five minutes left, Danilo showed his versatility. He took the ball up the court like a guard, pulled off an impressively deceptive dribble-drive move to the rack, and drew the foul.

The move was the only play of the game that drew “ahs” from the crowd—and Gallinari sank both free throws.

He finished with 14 points on five of 11 shooting, despite missing his first five shots. He also grabbed six boards

Overall, Gallinari's performance in the latter part of the game certainly had some indications of a great player. He has some good instincts, his jumper is silky smooth, and his makes don’t touch the rim.

He showed the range and ball-handling skills that could give opposing teams fits once the Knicks get the right players for D’Antoni’s system. He looks better than former top pick and fellow countryman Andrea Bargnani.

But he still has plenty of room for improvement. His defense wasn’t good and he needs to toughen up.

Gallinari and Chandler meshed well together, and are clearly the future of the Knicks frontcourt. Danilo showed flashes of brilliance in the second half after looking like the bust of the year in the first.

It should also be noted that it really seemed like Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson were genuinely pulling for him. Both of them were guest announcers at different points during the telecast and were clearly cheering him on.

That enthusiasm was something the Knicks were visibly lacking as a team last year.

Immediate success for this team is a definite reach. But as of now, the Knicks are undefeated in the post-Isiah era.

The important thing now is improvement—especially for the rookie. Which Gallinari will show up against San Antonio—the good, the bad, or the ugly? We’ll see on Wednesday