The Knicks celebrated Italian Heritage Night at the Garden on Friday, but it actually began Thursday night at Via Della Pace, a downtown Italian restaurant owned by Danilo Gallinari's friend. Gallinari hosted his countrymen, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli, for a reunion dinner among Italy's best basketball players.
"Honestly, for me and Andrea, this is a good thing to play in this game," Belinelli said of Friday night's game between the Knicks and Raptors. "It's a really good night."
It was for Bargnani, sort of. He was annoyed at the start of the game when, on Italian Heritage Night, he was erroneously introduced as being from Spain. Still, he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds and drilled 5 of 6 from three-point range in a 112-104 win by the Raptors. Gallinari matched his friend with five treys and had 26 points in the loss. Belinelli did not play.
All three were first-round picks in consecutive years: Bargnani was No. 1 overall in 2006, Belinelli 18th overall in 2007 and Gallinari sixth overall in 2008.
Gallinari was slapped with the "Italian Stallion" moniker when he first arrived in New York, but as he tells it, Belinelli is the real Italian Stallion. Belinelli laughed when asked how he got the nickname.
"Maybe they call me 'Italian Stallion' because maybe they said I look like Sylvester Stallone," he said. "That's the real reason."
Eddy Curry was inactive for a second straight game with a sore left knee. Mike D'Antoni laughed when asked how Curry - who hasn't played since mid-December - could get injured. "In practice," he said.