New York Knicks: Swishin' And Dishin', the Improbable Rise Of Danilo Gallinari

Andrew PhillipsCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27:  Danilo Gallinari #2 of the New York Knicks reacts after scoring against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on January 27, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Knicks defeated Heat 93-88.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Born August 8, 1988 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, a small province in Italy, Danilo Gallinari was always different.

In 2004, he started playing professional basketball at the age of 15 when most people that age were in their sophomore years of high school. From 2004-2007, Gallinari was shipped around and played for three different teams, excelling everywhere he went. During the 2007–08 season, he averaged 17.5 points a game. Everyone knew he was good, but could a young kid have his sights set on the NBA?

As it turns out, he did, as his contract with Olimpia Milano contained a clause that would let him out of his contract in order to play in professionally in the United States. Subsequently, Gallinari declared himself eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft which was already stacked with young, talented players.

There was a sneaking suspicion that the New York Knicks could be potentially interested in Gallinari, as Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was both a teammate, friend, and roommate of his father, Vittorio Gallinari.

Knicks fans, having had a run of disappointing seasons for their beloved franchise, finally had hope for they owned the sixth overall pick in the 2008 Draft, which included many college standouts and current superstars such as Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Brandon Rush, and Eric Gordon to name a few. Rose went first to Chicago. The Bulls, being New York's longtime nemesis, had struck gold with Rose; Knicks fans knew they had to answer.

Surely they would draft Eric Gordon from Indiana, or Brandon Rush out of Kansas. These players had been seen on national television all year. Knicks fans wanted someone who could make them a contender immediately. The Minnesota Timberwolves had the fifth overall pick and drafted Kevin Love. It was New York's turn.

David Stern approached the podium and stated, "With the sixth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select Danilo Gallinari..."

There were immediate boos. Knicks fans were outraged.

When ESPN's Steven A. Smith attempted to interview him through the boos, Danilo said all the right things about how he wanted to win, and wanted the team to win. Still, Knicks fans were not convinced.

In the 2008-09 season, Gallinari injured his back and only appeared in 28 games while averaging 6.1 points per game. Everyone in New York knew it. Danilo was a bust.

D'Antoni had drafted him as a favor for his former teammate and roommate. Not so fast. In the 2009-10, Gallinari appeared in 81 games and averaged 15.1 points per game. Suddenly, critics were quiet. The kid from Italy could play.

Every Knicks fan now wants Carmelo Anthony to play for them, but it's rumored that they would have to trade Gallinari and others to acquire him. Suddenly, Knicks fans are not too quick to bail on Danilo for all he has accomplished in his young career, and hope that the Knicks will eventually sign him to a long contract extension.

After all, who doesn't like a good Italian love story?