Yesterday morning, after Tokyo drifting to work with a cold cup of some of New York’s most undrinkable coffee in hand, I stumbled across an interesting piece by Michael Salfino on WSJ.com. Salfino noticed that Danilo Gallinari has the second highest rate of free throws per possession (.36) in the entire NBA, despite the fact that he is known primarily as a jump shooter. That Gallinari is a superlative free throw shooter means the paisan’s forays to the rim are all the more worthwhile. Gallo scored only three two-point field goals in Sunday’s win against Detroit and yet shot (and made) 11 free throws, en route to 29 points and a resounding Knicks win and only seven two-pointers to go with 27 points in the Knicks resounding loss to Dallas last night. These strange statistics beg two short questions, which I will do my best to answer without tearfully begging NBA big men to stop assaulting our precious Italian.
Why the hell is this happening?—
Gallinari takes long strides to the hoop, has very long arms and is clever [deviously European] enough to sell and exploit contact. These elements allow Gallo to get to the rim, and therefore the charity stripe, but one other virtue is perhaps even more vital toward this end—Danilo Gallinari runs like a circus clown with two high ankle sprains. Our blind love for the young Rooster cannot preclude us from making this obvious observation, and it should certainly not stop us from understanding its effectiveness. Opponents are consistently shocked by the fact that this limping beanpole is: A. not settling for a jump shot, and B. capable of driving past them without the assistance of a hard screen or tazer. The wonderment on Tayshaun Prince’s face (you know, if Prince hypothetically had the emotional capacity for a second facial expression) during Gallinari’s drives was especially telling last Sunday and was reminiscent of LeBron James’ frustrations by Gallinari’s staunch defense last Thursday. In short, Gallo is plainly capable of getting into the paint and scoring; it just doesn’t seem like most defenders have much luck comprehending this fact or stopping its execution.
How can the Knicks maximize these wonderful occurrences?—
As Salfino mentions, Gallinari is 4th on the Knicks roster in usage rate. Plainly, unselfish jump shooters are prone to fade in and out of games, and for the most part that is what Gallinari has been for the Knicks. During crunch time, however, the Knicks have shown that they lack a premier perimeter penetrator to isolate and attack the rim, a linchpin for almost all title contenders. Amare Stoudemire has been a revelation in many ways, but scoring off the dribble certainly hasn’t one of them, as has been painfully apparent in these situations. With Gallinari’s superior passing ability and penchant for getting to the stripe, one could argue that running pick and rolls and clear outs with Gallo as the primary ball handler could be an effective means to break down staunch fourth quarter defenses. Certainly anything is better than watching the courageous, but misguided, Stoudemire play hot potato with three defenders draped across his back.
The outlook for increased Gallinari usage seems quite good. With Raymond Felton struggling mightily with a bad wheel and Amare Stoudemire battling through some nicks and bruises the Knicks will need Gallo to take the wheel as a ball handler and catalyst in the half court. The statistics say that he is capable, but is he willing?