Danilo Gallinari's talent has most often been projected as a cross between fellow European-breds Dirk Nowitzki and Hedo Turkoglu. But after witnessing Gallinari's spirited head-to-head battle with superstar Carmelo Anthony in the Knicks' 109-104 win over the Nuggets on Tuesday, Tracy McGrady doesn't know if those comparables fit anymore.
"I really haven't seen Turkoglu go at somebody like that," McGrady said. "That was like, ' -- everybody else, it's me and you.' You know what I'm saying? I haven't seen Turkoglu do that. I haven't really seen Dirk do that because I think those guys play within a team concept. But no, [Tuesday] was like, 'Give me the ball, everybody move out the way. I'm going back at him.' I was enjoying it."
Gallinari is actually very much a team-concept player, almost to a fault. He rarely will demand the ball the way he did in that third-quarter eruption during which he had 17 points. More often, he will give up the basketball, as he did late in the fourth quarter when the Knicks held a one-point lead. But the fire the second-year forward showed as a willing go-to scorer and a determined defender on Tuesday against a star player is the reason the Knicks believe they have something special in the 21-year-old Italian.
"That's what you got to do," McGrady said. "That's what you have to do to get respect in this league."
The trick is to keep that fire lit for more than just a quarter or a half. Gallinari spent most of the season fading in and out of games, often either deferring to other players or allowing himself to be completely ignored. He did have some big offensive performances and has scored over 20 points 15 times in 70 games.
But it's only lately that he seems to be more engaged: He's had 20-plus points in three straight games and in four of his last five.
McGrady played 29:48 and had 15 points (6-for-9 from the field) and though he did not play in the fourth quarter, he said he "felt damn good" throughout the night. It was most evident by a play late in the first quarter when McGrady drove the lane and rose up for a dunk against Chris Andersen, who fouled him.
"I know what you're going to ask me," McGrady said with a smile. "When I first got here, there was no way I would try to dunk that ball. No way. It's coming back."