|Knicks take Italian teenager with No. 6 pick|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 26 June 2008 15:15|
The 19-year-old forward led his team, Armani Jeans of Milan, with 17.5 points per game and averaged 5.7 rebounds. Even so, testy Knicks fans aggressively booed the pick at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden when it was announced, perhaps remembering past draft stumbles by their team.
``I think he's an unusual package,'' team president Walsh said, citing Gallinari's ability to shoot from outside as a power forward - an asset in the up-tempo, high-scoring style D'Antoni prefers and plans to use with the Knicks.
Gallinari, who turns 20 on Aug. 8, was the third Italian player drafted by an NBA team in three years. The Toronto Raptors took Andrea Bargnani with the top pick in 2006, and Marco Belinelli was chosen 18th by the Golden State Warriors last year.
Even though neither has yet to develop into a star, Gallinari seems likely to outshine them. Despite Gallinari's age and inexperience, Walsh was struck by how his team made sure to get him the ball in crunch time.
``We're very happy to have this young man,'' Walsh said. ``Even though he's 19 he's been a pro for a while.''
Knicks fans, already an impatient bunch, recently sat through New York's seventh losing season, a particularly embarrassing one under former coach and team president Isiah Thomas. The franchise's draft history over that stretch has been spotty - when they've had picks to use - and the No. 6 spot was the highest for the Knicks since 1986.
New York would have had top-10 picks in the last two drafts, but both went to Chicago as payment in the Eddy Curry trade.
Fans chanted ``O.J. Mayo! O.J. Mayo!'' when they showed him up on a video screen about 10 minutes before the draft started. A few minutes later, they showed Gallinari on the board and fans booed loudly. They booed again when Minnesota took Mayo with the third pick and got the loudest when the Knicks made their selection.
``It's part of the game, all the players have got to hear this,'' Gallinari said. ``Not every time can you hear good things, it's normal.''
The Knicks took Wilson Chandler 23rd overall last year, and he averaged 7.3 points in nearly 20 minutes. The two 2006 picks, Renaldo Balkman (20) and Mardy Collins (29) averaged 3.4 and 3.2 points.