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After seeing doctors, Gallo leaning toward surgery

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Danilo Gallinari visited with three specialists while in his native Italy last week, bringing the grand total of physicians he's seen during the last four months to seven. With all the pertinent information he needs, it appears the 20-year-old forward decided on surgery to alleviate his back pain.

"Yeah, I'm leaning in that direction," Gallinari said yesterday. "We tried everything for eight months to figure out this problem. Last week, we were talking about this with specialists about the right idea and what to do."

Gallinari is expected to undergo a surgical procedure to help relieve pressure on a nerve in his back. The Knicks medical staff will confer with the physicians and pore over the results the next few days before making a final decision, probably within a week. Gallinari wasn't sure when the surgery would be, but said it would take place in New York. He hasn't been told of any kind of recovery timetable, but he should be ready for training camp in October.

Asked if he was confident the operation would be a one-time thing, Knicks president Donnie Walsh said he was hopeful that would be the case and pointed to Gallinari's rigorous daily treatments as something that will help the surgery.

"I feel better now because he put in the time he did on physical therapy," Walsh said, "and that has helped his condition, which makes this operation - from what I hear - to be different and not as complicated."

Gallinari has had lingering back pain from a bulging disk since July, when he got injured in a Knicks' summer league game. Although the disk receded, it would sometimes take him as many as five hours just to loosen himself up for games and his body never quite felt right, which hindered his ability to make certain necessary moves on the court.

Coincidentally, Eric Gordon, one of the players available when the Knicks chose Gallinari, will be at the Garden tonight. Selected one spot below Gallinari by the Clippers at seventh, Gordon's 15.5-point average ranks fourth among rookies, and he scored 30 points on the Knicks in the Clippers' Feb. 11 win.

Some have criticized the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - for not going with Gordon or someone like Nets rookie Brook Lopez instead of Gallinari.

"I think [Brook] Lopez and I think Eric Gordon are going to be very good players in the league," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "So taking away nothing from them - and you never know long term who's going to be the best - we're very confident and very secure about the pick that we did. We didn't pick anybody to win the title this year. We picked guys that in one, two, three years will develop into some of the best players in the league.

"We're pretty confident he's on that track. . . . Let's have this discussion in three years. [It] could be right that the guys behind were better, but we're putting our money on Gallo."

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