PORTLAND, Ore. - Danilo Gallinari made his first NBA start in yesterday's 109-108 loss to the Trail Blazers. Mike D'Antoni said "it's time" for the 20-year-old rookie, who, according to D'Antoni, "has been one of our smartest players." Gallinari entered yesterday's game with the best plus-minus rating (plus-63) on the team.
But the coach wouldn't commit to it as a permanent move. In fact, Gallinari played a small role in the game with six points and one rebound in 13:42.
"We want to see how it goes and then we'll decide," D'Antoni said. "It could be game to game, it could be all week or all year. I don't know."
D'Antoni also reinserted second-year player, Wilson Chandler, into the starting five and sent veterans Jared Jeffries and Quentin Richardson to the bench. The move seemed like a nod to the future, which D'Antoni wouldn't deny.
"That's a byproduct, but I don't think that's the reason we're doing it," he said. "That's something for the future that would be very important. But the biggest thing is, [Gallinari] plays well. His defense is better than I ever imagined and he gives us a really smart player on the floor. Like I said, we'll just see how it goes."
Gallinari, who saves his expressions of emotion for the court, took the promotion with little excitement. "It's the same," he said of his approach. "I think a player has got to always be ready if you start or if you don't start. I'm always ready. If I start, it's OK; if I don't, it's not a problem. So I'm always the same."
It's that confidence that has the Knicks believing they might have something in their lottery pick, who missed the first two months of the season with a back issue. The only indication of the injury now is when he spends his time out of the game on a stationary bike or lying on his stomach with a heat pack on his lower back.
"He looks like he's played like two NBA seasons and he's coming off an injury and just getting back into the swing of things," David Lee said. "He looks like he's got a chance to be a really special player."
Emerald with envy
The very active - and furious - group called "Save Our Sonics" says it bought up blocks of tickets for the Trail Blazers' game Wednesday at the Rose Garden, where they will host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Seattle-based group says it plans to boo both teams, especially the Thunder, which moved from Seattle last summer. It is the Thunder's first game in the Pacific Northwest since the move.