Karl: 'Gallo better than what I thought'

NEW YORK -- Former Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, who's returning to the Garden Saturday night for the first time since being traded for Carmelo Anthony, credits Mike D'Antoni with helping him master the transition game.

Now, he's utilizing that approach down to a tee in Denver's fast-paced offense. He's the Nuggets' second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, and his head coach George Karl said before the game that he's been better than advertised.

"I think Gallo has been better than what I thought he would be, but that happened very early," he said. "I think we're on the same page now. I want him to be more assertive. I want him to take steps with both on-the-court responsibilities and leadership responsibilities. He's a very bright young basketball player, both on and off the court. There's no question we like him and we want him to be part of our future."

Karl wants Gallinari to become a more responsible player, and he said the Italian stallion's skills will take care of itself if he brings the right mental approach to the court night in and night out. Gallo said he has no sadness about being shipped off -- "every player knows that the NBA is a business," he said -- and doesn't find it surreal that he's in a powder blue uniform tonight. He is very happy about being a Nugget.

"My first year experience to the playoffs was great, and I did it with Denver," he said. "We have a really good team here. We are doing a really good job. This is going to be very important for us tonight to win our fourth game in a row on the road. It's good to win here."

Gallo said he hasn't watched the Knicks this season, but still misses New York.

"I have a lot of friends here," he said. "It's a really big city, a nice city, a lot of Italian people, a lot of friends here, so I miss them."

About an hour before the game, Gallo had a chance to reconnect with his former coach.

"Yeah, we said a couple of Italian words. It was nice to see him again," Gallo said referring to D'Antoni.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.