Monday, July 14, 2008 | 3:35 p.m.
Good thing Danilo Gallinari didn't make his pro debut in New York City. After the hearty round of boos that rang down on him last month at the NBA draft inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden, surely some Knicks fans would have crucified the 19-year-old Italian star after missing his first five shots and going scoreless for 18 minutes.
Instead the sixth overall pick was greeted to loud screams from the dozens of elementary school children that packed that COX Pavilion Monday afternoon during New York's 97-94 victory over Cleveland in the NBA Summer League.
"I wasn't nervous at all," said a smiling Gallinari, who heated up in the second half to score 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds. "I was happy that some people came to watch me play."
Those in the Gallinari camp included Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni (who played basketball in Italy with Gallinari's father), N.Y. president Donnie Walsh's and even Knicks Quentin Richardson and Stephon Marbury — who showed up with a fresh tatoo on the top of his head.
"You get excited by some of the things he can do," said Knicks Summer League coach Phil Weber. "But then you have to temper that a bit because he is a rookie."
That's probably part of the reason that Gallinari missed the majority of the last five minutes of the neck-and-neck contest. New York's Wilson Chandler, who scored 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting sunk a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds left to provide the final margin. Cleveland's Clay Tucker missed a game-tying three from the corners as the buzzer sounded. J.J. Hickson also notched 26 to lead the Cavs.
Gallinari joked with reporters that he wasn't in at the end of the game because his back was sore: "Yeah from weight lifting."
D'Antoni certainly wasn't joking afterwards when he assessed his rookie's NBA potential
"He really looked good in the second half. He just needs experience and strength. He has everything else," said D'Antoni, who did interviews in both English and Italian.
“He’s gonna be a good one.”
Beck Back — Former UNLV forward Romel Beck scored four points but was limited to just eight minutes of action when he took an errant finger in the eye.