Danilo Gallinari left New York more than a decade ago, but the one-time lottery pick of the Knicks admitted his first career postseason meeting against his original NBA team makes this a “special” series for him.
Gallinari, who was traded to the Nuggets as part of the blockbuster package that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks in 2011, continues to be an effective scorer, when healthy, for the Hawks, his fifth NBA team.
“Definitely getting drafted and the first game played there, and of course the last season before the trade, it was a lot of fun,” Gallinari said Friday when asked for his favorite memories at Madison Square Garden.
The sixth overall selection in the 2008 draft averaged 13.3 points and shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range in 24 minutes per game over 51 appearances this season — his 13th in the NBA — after signing a three-year deal worth $61.4 million with Atlanta in the offseason.
The 32-year-old Gallinari is making his third straight postseason appearance after playing for the Clippers in 2019 and the Thunder in 2020. He is one of a handful of playoff-tested players on a Hawks team fronted by young stars Trae Young and John Collins.
“I talk to them more about basketball and the game plan, that’s what I’m focusing on and want them to focus on. Everything else is just something they have to go through and experience it,” Gallinari said. “[There is] nothing that I can say now, I think it’s just something that is good to experience.
“I think the biggest difference is that you play the same team multiple times. So you have to be able to do the same things you were doing in the regular season to do it even though the other team is preparing for it. I think that’s the biggest challenge.”
The Hawks finished 0-3 in the season series against the Knicks, and Gallinari said that in the playoffs, Atlanta’s defense “definitely has to be better than what we showed in the three games we played against them.
“I think they showed very good chemistry, especially defensively,” Gallinari said of the Knicks. “They execute their game plan no matter who they play and they execute it very well.
“Of course, Julius [Randle] has been playing amazing. And they have my former [Thunder] teammate Nerlens [Noel], who has been playing amazing, protecting the rim, so they have a very good team.”