By Chad Ford
Knicks GM Donnie Walsh said something to me this summer that I haven't been able to get out of my head.
Walsh said that the future of the Knicks lies with Danilo Gallinari ... not a certain free-agent-to-be superstar in Cleveland that Walsh can't talk about.
From Walsh's perspective having the cap room to lure a free agent wasn't going to be enough to lure a top talent to New York. Nor was having the most player-friendly coach in the league, Mike D'Antoni.
The best players in the league want to play with other great players, Walsh reasoned. The Knicks need at least one other potential superstar on their roster to help convince a top-tier free agent that New York has a shot at winning in the future.
With the cap expected to drop considerably next season, Walsh's dreams of adding two stud free agents has become a fantasy. Unless the Knicks can move Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries for an expiring contract this season, they just won't have the money to pay two elite free agents.
So given the Knicks' general lack of talent, who is the other potential superstar that could lure a free agent to New York? Walsh said, matter-of-factly, Gallinari.
Gallinari spent most of his rookie season resting a bad back and Walsh was ripped for passing on Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez for Gallinari.
But Walsh felt like Gallinari was a special player -- another sweet-shooting European forward a la Dirk Nowitzki. If Gallinari could show his potential this season, Walsh reasoned, he has enough star potential to lure an elite free agent this summer.
Three games into the season, Gallanari is making Walsh look like a prophet. He's averaging 22.7 ppg. He's already drained 18 threes and is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. He's actually a decent defender. Not bad for a 21- year-old kid basically in his rookie season. While three games doesn't make a season, Walsh has to be pleased with what he's seeing. If Gallanari can keep it up, the Knicks may have an important key to winning the free agent sweepstakes this summer.