The rest of us are looking at field goal attempts. We're wondering what's wrong with Danilo Gallinari on those nights he has single-digit shots and looks forgotten in the offense.

But while I'm standing in the visitors locker room at the AT&T Center, marveling at the fact that Gallinari has the wingspan of a Super 80 as he demonstrates to me how he plays denial defense, it's pretty obvious that this kid is far more of a basketball sophisticate than any of us hacks have ever acknowledged.

And I learned in this conversation that instead of going to Mike D'Antoni to complain about "touches" and his scant FGAs, Gallinari's request from his coach had a lot more purpose and responsibility.

"That's what I really want; every game to play defense against the best," he said. "That's what I asked Mike and that's what I'm trying to do."

Gallo has recently matched up against LeBron James, Joe Johnson and, on Wednesday, Manu Ginobili. And while he had a strong fourth quarter scoring wise -- eight of his 14 points, including a wild back-to-the-basket, over-his-head flip -- Gallinari was grumbling about Ginobili's 28 points. I told him those minutes in crunch time against a team like the Spurs mean a lot for his development. He didn't want to hear it.

"It means a lot, especially means a lot when Ginobili is kicking my ---," he grumbled.

We talked about what he tried to do against Ginobili and one thing was clear, Gallo did his homework. He laid out all of Ginobili's tendencies and the best way to play him. He talked about what he tried to do throughout the game and the amazing ability that Manu has to counter attack.

"He's really good in that first step, he has a long first step so once you try to stay with him on the first time, you have problems with the second one," Gallo explained. "He's really good at finding the right space. Even if you're sending him right, he's always trying to find a way to go back to his left and shoot with his left."

Then he again got frustrated as he recalled specific baskets in the game and how Ginobili used his long, skinny arms to slice through your defense and even make it look like you're fouling him when actually he's the one initiating the contact.

"He's been playing great the last few games and he's an all-star," Gallinari then concluded. "It's always tough to guard him, but I think I could have done a better job. I like to play defensive games against his type of players, but tonight I didn't do a good job."

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For a moment, I was so damn impressed with the kid I forgot I was interviewing him. We engaged in a discussion about the philosophy of defense in the NBA, how star players always seem to get the ball and THEN there is a defensive scheme to stop him. Gallinari says in Europe his favorite strategy was to completely deny the star -- don't let him even get it or at least make him work extra hard to get it --and force someone else to beat you.

I recalled the play he made on Allen Iverson in that game at Philadelphia on Jan. 13, when Gallinari read perfectly a pass from Elton Brand to Iverson and cut off any chance for Iverson to shoot a game-winning 15-footer. Iverson was forced to kick it out to Rodney Carney, who missed a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 93-92 Knicks win.

Very few people made note of Gallinari's play. But it was a veteran close-out. Got it out of the hands of an all-star caliber closer and left it up to a role player.

We both agreed that teams don't put enough pressure on the point guard as he brings the ball up the floor, either. There should be pressure from three-quarter court and up. By the third quarter, the point guard is so exhaused by the defense his play will start to deteriorate. Or the team will adjust and have him give up the ball sooner, which takes the team out of their comfort zone.

I believe Toney Douglas can be extremely effective in this kind of a role. I always thought Nate Robinson could do it, too. Of course it does wear out the defender some, which will impact his performance on offense. But that's why it's always best to have a backup PG to give your starter rest.

Back to Gallo:  Again, he stood in the middle of the room, as if he was denying me the ball. His right hand about a foot from my chest, arms extended. His left hand seemed so far away. It was at this moment I realized exactly why he can be an effective defender: ridiculously long reach. I mean picture a telephone pole in the street and the wires as they extend to the next pole. He looked like he could stand on a pitchers mound and tag out runners leading off first and third.

Gallinari has a lot of work still ahead of him, especially this offseason. He really needs to put some power into his lower body and get more agile.

But as this season winds down, I'm going to watch him differently now, because he is clearly not anything like Andrea Bargnani (a one-dimensional perimeter shooter) or Hedo Turkoglu, who can create with the ball. He loves playing in the post and is showing you can run sets through him on a post-up once in a while. He obviously can snap the net from just about anywhere on the court beyond the arc.

But what really gets him going is defense. He wants to be a stopper. He's got so much to learn still, but the most important thing is the kid wants to learn.

As the conversation ended I turned and said, "So who's it gonna be in Memphis?"

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He said, "The last time we played them I covered O.J. Mayo. So O.J. or Rudy Gay. Either one of the two."