Friday, June 27, 2008

"With the No. 6 Pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select......Danilo Gallinari"

The Player: Dalino Gallinari
Age: 19
Height: 6 feet, 9 inches
Weight: 212 pounds

Position: Small Forward, but capable of spot-minutes at shooting guard or power forward depending on the matchups.

Previous Team: Olimpio Milano in the Italian Series A, which not coincidentally, perhaps, is the team that Mike D'Antoni spent 13 seasons playing for and where he played with Danilo's father. These two guys (D'Antoni and the elder Gallinari) were also roommates while they were teammates. So, I mean it's within the realm of possibility that maybe, just maybe, Mike D'Antoni knows Mrs. Gallinari and that after a crazy night of drinking Chianti and riding mopeds around Milan that our new Knicks coach illegitimately fathered the team's newest player. I mean, it's possible. And, when his friend and teammate found out about this adulterous rendezvous between his girl and his point guard he flew into a proper Milanese rage and threatened to kill his then-teammate and roommate and the Knicks current coach. But before the revenge murder was consummated, D'Antoni made the elder Gallinari an offer he couldn't refuse: He promised him that if he spared his life and pretended that this incident never took place that he would ensure a future job in the National Basketball Association (in America!) for the unborn son. Done and done.

Nickname: "Il Gallo," which translates to "The Rooster" or "The Big Cock." Seriously.

The Hoops History: Gallinari was born on August 8, 1988 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy. He's 19-years-old. Yet he's been a professional basketball player since 2004. He was only 15 years old when he first took the floor for one of the minor league clubs in Italy. Since his father had been player and young Danilo was recognized as a prodigy at such a young age he has had the spotlight on him the entire time. He was picked/drafted (I'm not totally sure how this stuff works in the Italian League) by Armani Jeans Milano before the 2005-2006 season. He joined one of their second division affiliate, Edmes Pavia in LegaADue, but was called up to the Big League club during the following season to play in the Italian Series A championships and one of the European cups. Apparently, Gallinari made a phenomenal first impression. Even having played only half a season in his top-flight debut he was nominated as the Best Italian Player of the Series A championship. The following year he didn't disappoint in his first full campaign and was awarded the Euroleague 2007-2008 Rising Star trophy. And, now he's headed to the NBA, to New York City and his 20th birthday.

The Highlights: "Oooh, wow, oh wow, what a basket."

The Reaction At the Garden:

WWOD?'s Reaction: Even though this has become the Year of the Point Guard, small forward was the position I wanted the Knicks to target with the sixth pick in the NBA draft. Admittedly, I wanted that small forward to be Joe Alexander out of West Virginia University. One of the reasons I didn't want the club to reach for a guard who might be able to play the 1 is that the Knicks have a point guard next season in Stephon Marbury who is probably the best-case-scenario for the combo-guards in this draft that would still be on the board after Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo were picked. So, I wanted an athletic small forward who can get up and down and spread the floor in D'Antoni's offense.

Nevertheless, I couldn't stop from talking myself into the idea of selecting Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless when UCLA guard Russell Westbrook was called up by David Stern to pick up his Seattle Sonics cap in the four slot. Based on this week's WWOD? NBA Blogger Mock Draft I really thought that Seattle was going to snag Bayless, who is the non-Rose/Mayo elite guard (and, perhaps mistakenly, I don't include Augustin in the elite category, I see him a rung just below Gordon, Bayless and Westbrook, who in turn are a rung below Mayo who is in turn a rung below Rose) that I think stands the best chance of becoming a legit point guard in the Association.

Somehow in the two minutes immediately prior to the No. 6 pick Baylesss actually managed to leap-frog Gallinari in my internal rankings. Which didn't really make sense since I did not want Knicks GM Donnie Walsh to bow to popular opinion by going with a guard. So, even though I actually (sort of) got what I wanted I was still disappointed when David Stern paused and then read the Knicks pick aloud. I didn't feel like booing along with everyone else in the Garden when Gallinari ascended the podium to shake hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern. But I did feel that hollow, fake-smiley depression one (or, maybe just me) feels after unwrapping that last present on Christmas morning to find that it's just a pair of sensible slacks. I mean, you totally needed some slacks. They look nice, they're not pleated (which is good since you hate pleated pants) and you think they'll even fit. And you've also received close to a dozen other useful and above-average presents. But you still just feel a little let down. You say thank you. And then you're just sort of sad. Partially because Christmas is over and partially because no one got you the perfect gift.

Still, in spite of my post-Christmas-morning melancholy I really like this pick. It's the right spot on the floor. Gallinari has spent half of his teenage years distinguishing himself in European leagues stocked with grown men. He 6-9 going on 6-11. He can shoot threes and get to the rim. I'm a little concerned about his hops based on the footage I've seen but you have to assume that he's still growing into his still growing body and he will become more fluid once he stops getting taller and heavier.

Another reason to like this pick is that it goes against the trend that had most other General Managers convincing themselves that they could turn shooting guards into point guards. There is no alchemy that will transform Eric Gordon into Derrick Rose. Thankfully, Donnie Walsh is smart enough to know that. Furthermore, D'Antoni's offense needs wings who can shoot and run and cause mismatch problems just as much as it needs a special point guard. And, if the big knock on Gallinari is that he might not immediately be able to defend at this level then he'll fit in fine with the players currently on the Knicks and the players that D'Antoni had coached in Phoenix.

Ultimately, I fully realize that a huge part of my choice of Alexander over Gallinari as the most-desired small forward was my familiarity with former and my having never ever actually seen the latter play. I watched Alexander play in the Big East all season long, watched him play in the Big East tournament and watched him beat Duke in the NCAA tourney. I haven't followed Gallinari. I don't know much about him that I haven't learned since last Tuesday. So, my joy is tentative. But it is joy nonetheless. And, if a guy who sometimes gets sad on Christmas can feel joy about a NBA draft pick then it must be pretty good.

1 comment:

Luca. 5,997 miles from Phoenix said...

Danilo (I have seen him play in person a few times and very often on tv) is a very polished player, with great talent and his not afraid to take a team on his shoulders. He can be dominating on offense especially at the small forward position (good shooter and can attack the basket to the left and to the right). He has to improve a lot on defense and will suffer when being guarded by more athletic players.
He's mentally ready to play as he grew up in a basketball family since his Dad used to play with D'Antoni in one of the greatest team in Europe. I think Knicks fans will love him, eventually