(You know what I really mean). Knick fans around the world were enthralled last night to see Danilo Gallinari make his first NBA start, replacing Jared Jeffries in Mike D'Antoni's opening lineup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Gallo rose to the challenge, too. He canned two effortless left corner threes in the first 4 minutes to help give the Knicks a quick lead, and did fine guarding Nicolas Batum on the other end. Halfway into the quarter, though, Gallo was sent to the bench. Danilo wouldn't see the floor again until a 7 minute stint spanning the middle two quarters. His night ended with 7:52 remaining in the third. Many of us (including myself) were a little miffed to see Gallo's first start cut so unceremoniously short, but we shouldn't have been surprised. Here's why. Via the Knicks Fix:
“There are a couple of reasons," D'Antoni explained. "We want to get more scoring on the floor and try different combinations. Will, I thought, his athleticism gives us a little extra pop. We don’t sit Gallo for a whole quarter. He warms up and then he sits for a whole quarter so why not go ahead and play him and spread his minutes out over 48. And then we’ll see what happens."
"As I told the team, I don’t know if this changes a whole lot," D'Antoni added. "Just different combinations are going to play at different times. The minutes are going to be more or less the same. We’ll finish games how I feel each guy is playing and the combo that works the best.”
Let me see if I can clarify. Here's D'Antoni's logic, as I see it:
1. The Knicks had been starting games cold from the field.
2. Gallinari had been warming up his back during the shootaround, only to waste the bloodflow by sitting down or hitting the bike until late in the first period.
So I think the start makes plenty of sense. Might as well let Gallo spin early for his own good and the good of the offense. What about the limited minutes? Here's where the "we'll see what happens" part comes in. D'Antoni promised different- not more- minutes for his rookie, and that's what we got. Early on, it didn't seem to make sense. Gallo sat in the first after shooting 2-2 and buoying a Knick lead from downtown. Seems dumb, but maybe he's still only healthy enough for short stints. Danilo's benching in the third quarter, though, was completely warranted on second glance. The Knicks were down 15 when Nate Robinson replaced Gallinari. Nate promptly joined forces with Tim Thomas to propel the Knicks into the lead within 6 minutes. We probably would've been happy with a Rooster reappearance in the fourth, but these things happen. Remember that Danilo's still not the ablest of defenders, and he had Rudy Fernandez on his hands for much of his second half run.
So, while D'Antoni's lineup change was certainly a tease, there was logic behind his move. He doesn't think Gallinari's ready for big-time minutes, but he does see the need for extra firepower from the outset. Gallo's back is also a concern, and a starting spot allows him to transition easily from shootaround to gameplay. Whether this change sticks remains to be seen, but I think Coach Mike knows what he's doing.
Now, not using a foul to give with 4 seconds remaining? That's a different story.