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."

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics


PG CHRIS DUHON PPG: 11.1 APG: 7.2 RPG: 3.1 FG%: 42.1 3FG%: 39.1
SG WILSON CHANDLER PPG: 14.4 RPG: 5.4 APG: 2.1 FG%: 43.2 3FG%: 32.8
SF DANILO GALLINARI PPG: 6.1 RPG: 2.0 APG: 0.5 FG%: 44.8 3FG%: 44.4
PF AL HARRINGTON PPG: 20.1 RPG: 6.2 APG: 1.4 FG%: 43.9 3FG%: 36.4
C DAVID LEE PPG: 16.0 RPG: 11.7 APG: 2.1 FG%: 54.9 BPG: 0.3

KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Nate Robinson, 17.2 PPG; G Larry Hughes, 11.6 PPG; C Darko Milicic, 5.5 PPG; C Eddy Curry, 1.7 PPG • New acquisition

COACH: Mike D'Antoni (second season with Knicks) • 2008--09 RECORD: 32--50 (fifth in Atlantic)

POINTS SCORED: 105.2 (fourth in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 107.8 (28th in NBA)



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).


Fans can take heart that the Knicks didn't make any major mistakes and they still have money for a big free-agent signing next summer. But they don't have a bona fide starter on their team with the exception of Al Harrington and maybe David Lee. It's like an expansion roster.... Let's be honest: Opponents don't game-plan to shut down Lee. He's playing as close to his potential as humanly possible, and he should get credit for that. If you're hoping to get much more out of him, good luck.... Harrington seems to be a nice guy, and he'll compete for you, but he does a lot of silly things. If an opponent makes him look bad he might respond by going endline to endline, and he won't care who's in front of him.... Wilson Chandler runs the floor very well and is a much better offensive player than most people give him credit for. He could be one of their best commodities to trade.... There was no harm in giving it a try with Darko Milicic. They can use him in the high post—he can shoot it out there, and he's an excellent passer.... Eddy Curry has no shot with the Knicks even if he gets himself in shape. He's a post-up guy who'll never be showcased in their system.

PHOTONICK LAHAM/GETTY IMAGES (ROBINSON)NATE ROBINSON It's a numbers game: The 5'9" slam dunk champ is one of six Knicks who are in a contract year. PHOTOBILL KOSTROUN/AP (GALLLINARI)DANILO GALLINARI Can last season's Italian sub turn into a hero? PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (CHANDLER)