It has certainly been refreshing for not only the NBA, but the city of New York to finally see the Knicks once again reaching respectability after so many ups and downs the last couple of seasons.
One player who knows all too well about those turbulent times, Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, has taken a liking to the change of pace.
Simply put, Gallinari said, “I’m enjoying this. Winning is obviously better than losing. It’s been feeling really good to us as a team, so now we just have to keep it up.”
I caught up with Gallinari after he appeared at the Modell’s sporting goods store in Times Square this past Thursday, courtesy of Reebok, to talk about the Knicks’ impressive play this season.
Reebok and Modell’s both teamed up with Gallinari hoping to spread some holiday cheer. Any fan making a donation of non-perishable canned and packaged goods for the “Daily News Readers Care to Feed the Hungry of New York Food Drive” to benefit City Harvest were also given the opportunity to meet and greet Gallo as well as receive an autograph.
While all parties appreciated the fan support, Gallinari stressed, “It’s so important that the fans respond to these kinds of events. Today the response was unbelievable. It’s great that a lot of people came out today. I really appreciate it and am thankful for everyone.”
After a remarkable eight game winning streak, during which the Knicks beat up on some of the NBA’s less than stellar teams (as any “good” team in the league should), as well as pulling away with some victories against playoff contenders like the Nuggets, the team’s streak finally came to an end this past Wednesday as the Knicks fell to the Celtics by a score of 118-116.
With possession of the ball with less than a second left on the clock, the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire threw up an errant three-pointer that swished in, seemingly giving the Knicks a win. However, the official ruling was that the shot was not put up in time.
Since then, there has been question as to how much time should have been on the clock for the Knicks’ final possession following a shot from the Celtics’ Paul Pierce that turned out to be the game-winner.
Nevertheless, win or lose, Gallinari maintained that the Knicks tried to stay positive after the competitive matchup, saying, “It wasn’t easy because we lost and thought we could’ve won the game. At the end of the day, it was a great game and we played great too, but it’s still a long season and we have a lot of games to play.”
Gallinari has been having a good season thus far, averaging 15.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. He is also one of the league’s leaders in free throw shooting percentage, converting on just less than 90 percent of his attempts.
One of the many “specialty” athletes Reebok endorses, Gallo has benefited from the Knicks’ infectious success. Though his stats may be similar to past seasons, he has, more importantly, become smarter and more aggressive on the court.
Though he may still wait beyond the three-point line, ready to connect on those timely big time shots, he also drives to the he basket more often, leading the way to better shot selection. The more often Gallo drives, the more often he is fouled. His high free throw shooting percentage could certainly be attributed to how comfortable he has become with more opportunities at the line.
Gallinari, however, also attributes his strong play to being able to team up with a star like Stoudemire. Giving credit where it’s due, he went on to say, “Amar’e’s been unbelievable for us. He’s not only a great person, but a great player. He makes everything easier [on offense].”
In addition to having more fun on the court, Gallo has also been having fun off the court, with new found best friend, Knicks teammate Ronny Turiaf: Grinning, he said, “Ronny’s my brother, man. We’re always together off the court. We hang out a lot, but everything else is secret, so I cannot tell you everything!”
As the Knicks seemingly will end the year of 2010 on a high note, I could have predicted what the Knicks’ “Italian Stallion” wanted for Christmas:
“I want more wins. Winning all the rest of our games in December would definitely be a nice gift. Even more, I just want to stay with my family. My father and my brother are already here with me today. My mother will be here soon too. As long as we spend Christmas together, it’s good.”
The Knicks will look to begin a new winning streak (and hopefully work on granting Gallinari his Christmas wish) as they take on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the rest of the Miami Heat tonight at home.