Knicks Give Glimpse Of Future With Win Over Denver Nuggets… and It Looks Gooood

2010 Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus Elephant Parade

When the Knicks have it going, it's like the circus has come to town. Which, coincidentally, it did two nights ago. (source: Yardbarker.com)

Frank Isola of the NY Daily News wrote about last night’s crowd at Madison Square Garden:

The Knicks don’t really deserve their fans. Not yet anyway.

On Tuesday, the Garden was alive and kicking as Danilo Gallinari and Carmelo Anthony went back-and-forth in the third quarter of the Knicks thrilling win over the Nuggets. The quality of play and sound of the crowd made it seem like May.

The Knicks will likely lose 50 games for the second consecutive year and their fans act as is they are a championship contender. It just goes to show you how desperate the supporters of the orange and blue are for a winning team.

“That’s why it’s New York, it’s the best,” Mike D’Antoni said. “Every game is a show.”

Let’s be honest, the outcome of our games don’t matter at this point.  If we win, we ain’t making it to the playoffs.  If we lose, we ain’t improving our lottery odds since we traded our picks away.  Yet still, fans cheer for the Knicks like crazy.  Or, when the team’s sucking, we’ll boo like crazy.  Either way, the fans clearly are crazy.  The players may be inconsistent, but our fans’ mental instability remains constant.  Like spurned lovers, all we want is someone to count on.  Danilo Gallinari was declared one of NYC’s most eligible bachelors in January, but only recently has he shown he may be the one true one for us.

This year he’s looked great at times.  At other times he’s been more invisible than Casper The Friendly Ghost on a foggy day.  While most other Knicks have had their minutes yanked left and right, Gallo’s been one of three (along with David Lee and Wilson Chandler) who’ve consistently gotten 30+ minutes every night.  In February, he played nearly 34 minutes a game, yet averaged a meager 10.1 points.  After notching 20 points on January 22nd, he went 21 games (nearly two months) before he reached that threshold again.  He finally got back up into the twenty-plus club with his brilliant 27 points in the astonishing win against the Atlanta Hawks.  Yet when he scored 14, 9, and then 6 in his subsequent games, it seemed like the 27 must’ve been an aberration.

US-NEW YORK-NBA-KNICKS VS NUGGETS

Gallo takes it strong to the hole against Denver's Nene, a premiere shot-blocker and the league's sole player to go by only one name. And you thought Cher, Madonna & Sting were intimidating. (source: Yardbarker.com)

He perked up after that with 21 points, again leading us to victory and hope for a better tomorrow.  His tomorrow brought a disappointing 9 point game.  But since then he’s blown up again, hitting plus-twenty in three straight games.  So now we’ve had 20+ in 4-out-of-5 games.  Not bad.  Even 20+ in 5-out-of-9 ain’t too bad.  The part that makes me hesitant to commit to him though is that in them four games that he failed to hit the 20 point barrier, in all but one of ‘em but he didn’t even hit double digits.  Yikes.  You can’t always take your gal out to four star restaurants, but c’mon, you can certainly avoid bringing her to the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s.

The positive thing though about those lackluster scoring nights is that Gallo has been working on his game.  Not content just being known as a shooter, he’s worked on driving to the basket, and even more impressively, playing defense.  As Mitch Lawrence reported in the Daily News:

Not exactly known as a defender, Gallinari asked for the assignment [to cover Carmelo Anthony].”I like to play against the best because that’s the only way to improve,” he said Monday after practice in Greenburgh. “It’s a part of learning. It’s a part of trying to understand where I am and what I have to do get to that level and what they have more than me. I like the challenge.”

Just after the Knicks sent their best frontcourt defender, Jared Jeffries, to Houston in the Tracy McGrady deal, Gallinari went to Mike D’Antoni and asked to guard the opponent’s top offensive player for the rest of the season.

The best part about last night wasn’t just that Gallo scored or played D.  He did one of my favorite things: he talked smack.  ESPN reports:

The second-year forward from Italy matched shots — and words — with one of the NBA’s biggest stars.

“Actually it was kind of fun for me to see him hold his ground and not back down,” Anthony said. “He was kind of talking back to me out there, too, which I was kind of surprised.”

[...] Anthony and Gallinari became involved in a sometimes testy back and forth midway through the third quarter, and the Knicks got the better of it. After Anthony’s basket gave the Nuggets a two-point lead with 3:37 to go, Gallinari hit consecutive 3-pointers to ignite an 11-0 spurt to end the period. Harrington’s 3 with 3.9 seconds left sent New York to the fourth with an 83-74 advantage.

Anthony wouldn’t divulge what Gallinari said to him, but it was enough to get the officials to order the talking to stop.

“That’s the challenge. That’s basketball,” Gallinari said. “Talking is a great part of basketball. If you don’t talk in basketball, you cannot play basketball. You’ve got to talk.”

Anthony scored 12 in the quarter, appearing he would get the better of Gallinari earlier in the period, when the Nuggets were going to their All-Star on every trip and he seemed amused and annoyed by the Italian’s attempts to check him. He jawed at Gallinari after some of his baskets, but Gallinari gave as good as he got.

Have wiser words ever been said than “If you don’t talk in basketball, you cannot play basketball?”  I mean, honestly, if he hadn’t used a contraction and said “do not” instead of “don’t,” this’d be good enough to start calling him Italian Yoda.

US-NEW YORK-NBA-KNICKS VS NUGGETS

Italian Yoda says, "He who hits reverse drive, need never fear the hit of fortunes reversing." (source: Yardbarker.com & a fortune cookie)

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Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a brief foray into Free Agency Hoopla, particularly since I’ve been touting Carmelo in 2011 as Plan C for a while.   Marc Berman brings this up in the NY Post:

LeBron James this summer, Carmelo Anthony next summer?

The Knicks actually are in position to work the 2010-2011 superstar exacta if things fall a certain way.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh has been on a campaign to alert the team’s fans that all the cap room does not have to be filled this July, when the Knicks have space to sign two maximum free agents.

“We got this thing [cap] down under, and now have to manage our cap to the best of our ability, taking into consideration what could be available to us as we go on [each summer],” Walsh told The Post yesterday.

Walsh admits he’s not going to waste money on a free agent he’s not crazy about just to fill up their 2010 cap space.

“I won’t,” Walsh promised. “Without in any way encouraging you to write about the names of the 2011 free-agent, class, yes. Of course. We’re looking at it over a five-year period.”

Questioned relentlessly last night by the media at MSG, the Brooklyn-born ‘Melo gave a politically polite answer, that unfortunately in NY can spark an unintended rumor-stoking fire, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next year.  I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to play here.”

First, Berman’s idea of LeBron this summer AND Melo the next is ridiculous journalistic muckraking.  No way would ‘Bron sign in NY this summer without getting someone else on board, name on the line, at the same time.  So don’t indulge in the possibility of that combo for a second. However, Jeremy Wagner of the TrueHoop Network writes:

There are some factors playing in New York’s favor. Carmelo is an East coast guy hailing from Baltimore. He played his entire college career — all one season of it — in Syracuse, N.Y. and his first college contest was played at Madison Square Garden. [...] Another thing in the Knicks’ favor is they should be in a much better place next summer than this one with at least one quality free agent in place from this offseason and possession of their future draft picks while Denver could be in for another round of salary slashing this offseason.

If we’re allowing ourselves such idle (or should I say idol) speculation, he also mentions on his own site, Roundball Mining:

On the flip side, Denver could look drastically different as well.  Chauncey is playing very well this season, but it is unlikely that he will continue at this level as he ages.  Kenyon is struggling with knee problems and who knows what happens to him.  The Nuggets are going to be far enough past the luxury tax level next year they will need the Sword of Omens to see it.  There is a legitimate chance they choose to make another salary dump trade this summer.  All of those are within the realm of possibility and would damage the quality of the Nuggets and thus it is possible that in a little more than a year the Knicks could be the better location from a competitive standpoint.

LAKERS

Is it significant that Carmelo looks into the distance here and sees nothing? ...Probably not. (source: Yardbarker.com)

Yeah, 2011 is far away, but moments of hope can be hard to find for Knicks’ fans.  Unless Gallo is finally ready to commit to us as a full-time stud. As the ladies say, “A good man is hard to find.”

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