After taking on Carmelo Anthony, Danilo Gallinari's physical play gets noticed by New York Knicks
BY Frank Isola
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Thursday, March 25th 2010, 4:00 AM
For years, the knock on European players was that they were soft. It probably started around the time Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were ganging up on Toni Kukoc.
The stereotype, regardless of how unfair it is, still exists today and in some ways Danilo Gallinari uses it to his advantage. The worst thing an opposing player can do is underestimate the Knicks' second-year forward from Milan because the only thing soft about Gallinari is his jump shot.
"I just thought he was a guy that just shoots the ball," Tracy McGrady said. "That's it. He'll stay outside and shoot. But he can play."
Gallinari made a believer out of McGrady and Denver's Carmelo Anthony after the 6-foot-10 forward scored 17 of his team-high 28 points in the third quarter of Tuesday's win over the Nuggets. Gallinari asked to guard Anthony, and in the decisive third quarter, the two players traded shots and words in a classic duel that had the Garden buzzing.
"That was like, '(forget) everybody else, it's me and you,' " McGrady said. "I haven't seen (Hedo) Turkoglu and Dirk (Nowitzki) do that. They play within the team concept. That was 'get me the ball and everybody move out of the way.' I was enjoying it."
Gallinari has always been one of the Knicks' more physically and mentally tough players. He'll play through pain, he's not afraid to take big shots and he won't back down from a challenge. In December, after the Clippers' Baron Davis hit Gallinari with an elbow, Gallinari returned the favor after grabbing a rebound. Davis looked stunned.
"I know I've always been tested because I'm young," he said. "That's okay."
Gallinari, who was limited to just 28 games as a rookie due to a back injury that eventually required surgery, has been inconsistent this season. Three weeks ago, Mike D'Antoni criticized Gallinari for his lackluster play, but recently he's been one of the Knicks' most consistent players.
Gallinari's development is crucial for several reasons. He's one of the few Knicks under contract for next season, and his presence could either hurt or help the team recruit a significant free agent this summer. In November, when the Cavs made their one and only visit to the Garden this season, a LeBron James confidant pointed at Gallinari and said "LeBron wants to see how this kid does this year."
After the game, LeBron approached Gallinari to offer encouragement and advised him to make sure he stretches his back before every game. Jordan was never that chummy with Kukoc.