It's a numbers game: The 5' 9" slam dunk champ, Nate Robinson, is one of six Knicks who are in a contract year.
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65 Double doubles last season for David Lee, the most in the NBA and in Knicks postexpansion history. The power forward was the first Knick to lead the league in double doubles since Patrick Ewing (47 in 1996-97).
Record: 32-50 (fifth in Atlantic) Points scored: 105.2 (fourth in NBA) Points allowed: 107.8 (28th in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
Here's how Danilo Gallinari describes the pain he felt throughout last season: "It was 24 hours a day. I couldn't sleep. I had to get to the arena four hours before the game just to get ready to play. I couldn't do normal, everyday things."
Remarkably, Gallinari, 21, was able to appear in 28 games as a rookie, averaging 6.1 points in 14.7 minutes, before the bulging disk in his back sidelined him last March. The Knicks happened to go 14-14 in those games, which is one reason coach Mike D'Antoni plans on increasing the workload of the 6' 10", 225-pound forward, who says he is now pain-free after undergoing a laminotomy -- a minimally invasive operation on the lower spine that relieves pressure on nerve roots -- in April. When upright, Gallinari, the sixth pick in the 2008 draft, has the strength to back down small forwards in the paint and the shooting range to draw power forwards to the arc. Says D'Antoni, who coached Steve Nash for five seasons and Michael Redd on Team USA, "He's the best shooter I have ever seen." Although Gallinari did not impress with his defense last year, New York believes that he can contribute on that end. "He has good footwork, and he's smart about how he positions himself," says G.M. Donnie Walsh. "And because he's so long, he can give up a little space and still get to the shot."
Gallinari's productivity is one of several big ifs that will define the Knicks' season. If center Eddy Curry, who reported to training camp at 317 pounds, 40 pounds lighter than he was last season, can stay in shape, he will give New York a solid low-post presence. And if the six players who will be free agents after the season can put team goals ahead of individual ones, the Knicks could develop enough chemistry to make a run at the playoffs.
"The guys here are tired of losing," says Walsh. "And teams looking at free agents want guys who are winners. If we win, it helps everyone."
-- Chris Mannix
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