The Knicks hope their top pick in the draft embodies their future: Forward
"Milan is similar to New York, because as soon as you do something that's not good, [fans] boo you," says Gallinari, the 19-year-old star of the Italian club Armani Jeans Milano. "It's a tough place to play, but it's nice."
Gallinari may use different adjectives to describe New York once he has experienced a few rough nights with the Knicks, who haven't had a winning season since 2000-01. Many observers assumed that D'Antoni would lean toward picking the Italian because he played with Gallinari's father,
"Whether or not Mike liked him personally had nothing to do with the decision," says Knicks president of basketball operations
As the only international player taken in the lottery, Gallinari was its biggest mystery. But a year or two in the weight room should help him prove why he was chosen to launch the Walsh-D'Antoni era: Team doctors expect him to top out at 6-11, and he has an aggressive nature that rebuts the European stereotype. Older teammates deferred to Gallinari because he was unafraid to drive inside, whether in the Italian league (where he led Milan with 17.5 points per game last season) or the more competitive Euroleague (14.9).
"Our scouts were very high on him and I watched a lot of film on him," says Walsh. "I was already thinking this guy could have the full package because he has size, great ball handling skills, and he goes to the goal as the go-to guy on his team -- and then [in his workouts for the Knicks] I find he can really shoot."
Picking Gallinari might turn out to be one of the easier decisions for Walsh, who must find a way to unload several big contracts to create cap room for the 2010 free-agent class of
How quickly can Gallinari help turn the boos into cheers? "We know we can't do this overnight," says Walsh. "I have to make good decisions all the way through, and I hope I made the right decision in this case."