By MARC BERMAN
Jul 12, 2008 11:39 PM EST
LAS VEGAS - It's just two summer-league practices in a high school gym in the desert, but KnicksNew York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni sounded relieved yesterday after watching Italy's Danilo Gallinari be everything his Italian friends said he would be.
In truth, a part of D'Antoni was nervous about taking the 6-foot-10 Italian Stallion without ever having seen him play live. The workout Gallinari gave the Knicks before the draft was a solo session.
"Europeans are great 1 on 0 because they have all the skills," D'Antoni said. "But I saw film and talked to my Italian friends and they told me this guy is really good. He can play."
D'Antoni was in gushing mode at Vegas' Valley High. On Draft night, D'Antoni was rather reserved, considering the momentous occasion of tabbing Gallinari at No. 6.
"I'll tell you and I hope I'm not getting ahead of myself, but he's really good,"
D'Antoni said. "Like today, he just goes over to Herb [Williams] and tells him [a player] hasn't had a shot the last six times up, call something for him. He automatically knows.
"He's stronger than I thought," D'Antoni added. "He's more athletic than I thought. And he shoots the heck out of it."
Gallinari's toughness quotient has pumped up D'Antoni's spirit. D'Antoni questioned it during the winter when he saw a tape of the Milan standout.
"He can bang," D'Antoni said "When he takes a hit, his expression does not change, He got clobbered and was right back in his face. He doesn't get fazed by it.
"He's got a chance to be really special," D'Antoni added. "Toughness and being more athletic that what I thought [were] two questions from watching film. Until you see him."
D'Antoni can envision a forward tandem of Gallinari and Wilson Chandler for years to come.
Chandler is coming off a solid end to his rookie year. D'Antoni, unsolicited, raved about the former DePaul forward, feeling he and Gallinari can alternate between small and power forward depending on matchups.
How soon the young duo can get major minutes depends on the status of incumbent starting forwards Zach Randolph and Quentin Richardson.
The Knicks desperately want to trade Randolph's contract to get under the cap by 2010. SI.com reported the Clippers were interested in Randolph but president Donnie Walsh reportedly rejected a deal, likely because he couldn't get enough short-term contracts.
Meanwhile, Richardson, coming off an out-of-shape, disgraceful shooting season, arrived in Vegas to work out with the summer-league team, claiming to be 228 pounds, 15 pounds lighter than when the season ended.
"He thought he could be a little lighter," D'Antoni said. "He wanted to get down. Any time someone's thinner I like."