He was born on 08/08/1988, so this could have been Daniel Gallinari’s summer, according to the numerology of the Chinese Olympics. Instead, Team Italy is not on court to defend its Athens’ silver medal and with only a European qualifying group to face, Gallinari is not lacking for time to think about and prepare himself for his next experience in NBA.
Drafted by New York Knicks with sixth overall pick, Gallinari received a mass of boos from his future fans, but the current feeling from Italian sources is that Gallinari will unlikely see a rookie season like his fellow countrymen Bargnani and Belinelli.
Gallinari is coming off two great seasons with Armani Jeans Milano, where he represented, at the age of 19, a basic player: He has the “right face” and the temperament to be decisive in very different situations; he fits perfectly into every team system; he has the skills to play NBA ball much more than other European and inexperienced guys. What about his role on floor and on Knicks’ playbook? Gallinari is a pure small forward, a wing with the talent to score from anywhere and create his own shot; his height has thus far allowed him to dominate smaller opponents; and his toughness and ability to finish through contact is not at all in doubt. Good hesitation moves, body control, mid-range game, and above all his decision-making, consistency and leadership make you wonder if Gallinari is indeed only 20.
He drove Milano to Serie A’s semifinals in the last two years, becoming the key player on a team whose best elements were Kiwane Garris, Travis Watson, Ansu Sesay and Melvin Booker – Surely not your fantasy players. Gallinari was Serie A MVP in 2007/2008 and also won the Euroleague’s Rising Star trophy. Since his debut three years ago for Italian second division team Pavia, he has played many more games than other prospects and at the top European level: This is the primary reason why, when we speak of Gallinari, the first thought goes to the team he will find, not to the way he’ll get used to it.
There they are, the New York Knicks. In the starting lane of a new era, they look like a team which can’t dream so much of high aspirations – not with the current roster – but the possibility of reaching 35 wins isn’t remote, because Mike D’Antoni is a strong guarantee. Seeking buyers for Randolph and trying to help Marbury straighten up, the former Suns’ coach will give Gallinari the chance to show his talent, and not only because his father Vittorio was a reliable teammate in Milano in the 1980s, but specially because the SF spot is not filled very well: Quentin Richardson can’t complete a season without injuries, Jared Jeffries knows only the defense.
Truly, Gallinari is not the problem solver, but the impact he might have in the Big Apple should not be underestimated. He can represent another offensive option besides Crawford and Curry/Randolph, bring energy in the court, and provide a scoring boost off the bench. Moreover, Gallinari has a feel for the game and a basketball IQ uncommon in NBA among non-American players. Right now, Gallinari is a rookie, but the selection is more than a project. He has to improve many aspects of his game – footwork against faster guards; three-point shooting, specifically his slow release; left hand; protection of the ball in the paint – to become a NBA star, and someone must worry about his repeated injuries (right leg fibula, right knee ligament, right shoulder, back) of the last two years.
On the other hand, Gallinari enjoys the confidence of D’Antoni and the hole the Knicks have at SF is too tempting not to take advantage of. New York fans shouldn’t expect 20 points per game from Gallinari, but the contribution he can make to the franchise is not worthless. They must know that the Italian is perhaps the readiest pick of the entire draft, including Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo. Perhaps he’ll dunk rarely, but he’ll make people speak about him. And the whistles will be vague reminiscences.
This article has been written by Francesco Cappelletti.