Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK –– Danilo Gallinariwas introduced to enthusiastic applause from Knicks fans before making his Madison Square Garden debut as a Denver Nugget Saturday night.
And then the former Knick proceeded to go out and hand Carmelo Anthony and his old team its sixth straight loss by pouring in a career-high 37 points in a 119-114 double-overtime victory that marked Denver’s fourth straight road win.
“[I wanted] to thank all the fans because that means that they remember all the good things I did for this team and for this franchise, so I have to thank them for the ovation,” said Gallinari, who scored nine points and went 7-for-7 from the line as the Nuggets outscored the Knicks 14-9 in the second overtime.
“He had a heck of a night tonight,” said Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, who once again heard calls of “Fire D’Antoni” and “Phil Jackson.”
Three former Knicks — Gallinari, Al Harrington (24 points) and Timofey Mozgov (16) — combined for 77 points in the win. Gallinari and Mozgov were dealt, along with Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and three draft picks, for Anthony at the February trade deadline.
Anthony, who was covered by Gallinari for much of the game, hit a fadeaway jumper with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and finished with 25 points on 10-for -30 shooting but went 0-for-3 in the second overtime.
“With me, I shoot the same shots the past four, five games, that I usually shoot,” Anthony said. “Shots are not going. I am not too concerned about that. It is about making it. I am just trying to figure it out. I am trying to figure it out with the guys on the team.”
Said Harrington: “I hope it works out for them because Melo is like a brother to me and I hate to see anybody suffer.”
Gallinari’s current and former teams have gone in opposite directions since the trade.
The Nuggets are now 31-12 since the trade in the regular season and the Knicks 20-24.
“The Nuggets are playing great, they’re playing great team basketball,” said Amar’e Stoudemire, who struggled to score 12 point on 4-for-9 shooting. “It’s hard to guard those guys when they move the ball the way they do.
“Gallinari played phenomenal. He had a phenomenal game tonight.”
Asked before the game if it was strange to return to the Garden as a visitor, Gallinari said: “I’m a Nuggets now. I played the playoffs last year with the Nuggets and I started this season with the Nuggets so I’m happy to be back but I’m a Nuggets player.”
Denver (12-5) has benefitted more from a balanced rotation that featured four starters averaging at least 12 points.
The Knicks (6-10), losers of six straight, have stalled offensively with many criticizing Anthony for being a ball-stopper.
Asked why the Knicks had suffered in the wake of the trade while the Nuggets have prospered, Gallo said, “I don’t know. We are playing very good basketball. We are a very good team and Melo is superstar. He’s one of the best players who plays in the league so like I said, I’m very happy what we are doing in Denver.”
After being chosen as the No. 6 overall pick in 2008, Gallo was a fan favorite during his two-plus years in New York.
Then-Knicks GM Donnie Walsh was reluctant to give up so many pieces for Anthony, but team owner Jim Dolan reportedly pushed the trade through.
“This is a business,” Gallinari said. “Everybody, every player knows that NBA is a business so if you get traded, you get traded and we still gotta be concentrating and be focused and do a good job.”
Gallinari said he’s been too busy with his own team to focus on the Knicks’ struggles.
“I gotta use my energy to follow the Nuggets and be focused on the Nuggets,” he said. “I can’t use my energy to follow other team.”
He did confess to missing New York, where he developed some close friends during two and a half years in the city.
“I have a lot of friends here so it’s a really big city,” he said. “Lot of Italian people, lot of friends here so I miss them.”
Gallinari met briefly with his former coach, the embattled D’Antoni, before the game.
“We had a couple of Italian words so it was nice to see him,” Gallinari said.
Gallinari credited D’Antoni with helping transition from Italian to American basketball.
“The experience I had with Mike was great because he had me out in the transition with the European basketball so it was great to play for him,” he said.
As for his current coach, George Karl said he Gallinari had given the Nuggets more than he expected since the trade.
“He’s a very bright young basketball player,” Karl said. “Both on and off the court and ther’e sno question we like him and we want him to be a part of our future.”
As of now, his future looks brighter in Denver than it ever did in New York.
Photo: Daily News
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.