quinta-feira, 22 de maio de 2008

Mike D'Antoni has Italian tie to draft

The only thing worse for the Knicks than losing the opportunity to draft Derrick Rose is knowing that the Memphis point guard is sure to end up with an Eastern Conference rival.

Chicago, which scored a stunning upset in winning Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, is expected to select Rose with the first pick. If the Bulls pull off another upset and take Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley, Rose will land in Pat Riley's lap with Miami picking second in the June 26 draft.

In either case, Rose will be off the board when the Knicks are on the clock. But even with the draft's premier player gone, there figures to be a quality guard available at No.6. If either USC's O.J. Mayo or Arizona's Jerryd Bayless falls past the fifth pick, Knicks president Donnie Walsh and new coach Mike D'Antoni will have a tough decision on their hands.

Of the two, Bayless is regarded as the better point guard prospect although both he and Mayo seem more suited to play shooting guard. Indiana's Eric Gordon should also be available.

None of the three is a no-brainer, which creates several scenarios for Walsh. With Stephon Marbury entering the final year of his contract and both Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson equipped to play in D'Antoni's up-tempo system, the Knicks may look to acquire a point guard - perhaps Toronto's T.J.Ford - via a trade or through free agency. The Raptors are hoping to re-sign Jose Calderon, who like Ford would prefer to start.

The Knicks would love to get their hands on Calderon, but Ford is probably the more realistic option of the two.

If the Knicks don't draft a guard they could opt for Danilo Gallinari, a 6-9 small forward who is playing in his home country of Italy.

He has the skills to thrive in D'Antoni's system. Gallinari's father, Victorio, played with D'Antoni in Italy.

"That was my roommate and teammate for eight years, so obviously there's a connection," said D'Antoni, who also coached in Italy. "But at the same time, I don't know where the scouts are or what Donnie has in mind, so I guess in the next three weeks we'll figure that out."

A Phoenix Suns executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, predicted that the Knicks will draft Gallinari, who is regarded as the best international prospect in the draft.

D'Antoni's teams in Phoenix featured many prominent foreign-born players, including Steve Nash (Canada), Boris Diaw (France) and Leandro Barbosa (Brazil).

"Mike is in love with his abilities," the executive said of Gallinari. "That would seem to make the most sense."

Gallinari has drawn comparisons to Toni Kukoc. He's being touted as a hustle player with big-time offensive skills who can play either forward position.

Walsh is not ruling out trading the pick, which would be a way for the Knicks to rid themselves of large a contract.

Walsh will try to package the pick with either Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry, which would create cap space for the summer of 2010 when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade become free agents.

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