Two NBA Rookies in the Madison Square Garden Spotlight • Latino Sports

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Two NBA Rookies in the Madison Square Garden Spotlight

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Two sub-.500 NBA clubs, the New York Knicks (16-24) and the Chicago Bulls (18-14), played an exciting and entertaining contest in the 22nd annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Knicks forward Al Harrington greeted the crowd of 18,807 and disco star Martha Wash dramatically sang the National Anthem before the game began. The Knicks were victorious, 102-98, for the 17th time in the 22 holiday games played at the Garden.  Although the Knicks continued their winning ways in the holiday contest, the game was exceptionally competitive as it featured 10 ties and 19 lead changes. The first quarter was representative of the desire of both teams to win. The game was tied four times and the lead changed hands on 11 occasions. Neither club was ahead by more than three points in the quarter. New York scored nine unanswered points late in the second quarter to take its biggest lead of the contest, 54-41. The Bulls immediately followed the example of the Knicks by scoring 12 of the next 13 points to cut the margin to two points with seconds remaining in the half. There were two scoring runs in the third quarter, but the quarter ended with New York ahead by only one point. The lead went back and forth several times during the fourth quarter. Chicago had a 98-97 advantage with 1:10 remaining in regulation, but the Knicks closed out the victory by scoring the final five points.

Several players on each team made important contributions. Six Knicks, paced by Al Harrington with 24, scored in double digits. Chris Duhon’s two baskets within the final minute assured the win for New York. Duhon scored 19 points in the game. David Lee had his 26th double-double in his last 29 games. Two members, Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas, of the Bulls achieved double-doubles (points and rebounds). Joakim Noah of Chicago, whose father, tennis star Yannick Noah, was in the stands, had a career high of 18 rebounds.

 

Despite these outstanding performances, many in the crowd were focused on the two 20 year old rookies, Derrick Rose, of the Bulls, and Daniro Gallinari, of the Knicks. Rose was the #1 Overall pick in the June 2008 NBA Draft.  Rose, a college standout with the Memphis Tigers, left the school after his freshman year. The heralded rookie is the current favorite for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He leads all NBA rookies in assists per game (6.3) and is second in scoring (16.9 ppg.) and minutes played per game (37.5). Only O.J. Mayo of Memphis has stats comparable to those of Rose. Saturday was Rose’s NBA debut at the Garden. Rose scored 20 points, the highest by a #1 NBA pick in his Garden debut since LeBron James scored 22 on February 22, 2004. The eight assists by Rose had not been exceeded since the inaugural performance by 1979’s #1 NBA draft selection, Magic Johnson, on February 5, 1980, when he dished for 11. Rose, whose college team was in the NCAA final last season, is not discouraged to be on a losing team. After the game on Saturday, he said, “It’s going fine. In the NBA, you know you’re going to lose games. You just have to suck it up and go hard in the next game. You can’t win every game. “Rose is more concerned with helping his team make the playoffs than winning the rookie award. He explained, “I just want to make the playoffs. There’s a lot of good rookies out there.” Teammate Ben Gordon spoke words of high praise for Rose, “[He’s] really good. For a young player, he has poise. The sky’s the limit.”

Danilo Gallinari was the Knicks first round draft pick, sixth overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. The native of Italy played in the Italian League for the past four years. His father was a teammate and roommate of Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni when both played in Italy. The 6-10 forward missed 36 consecutive games this season due to a sore lower back after brief appearances in the first two games of the regular season. He had his first longer stint on Saturday, 15 minutes. On Monday, he played 16 minutes against the Bulls. The popular youngster elicited cheers from the crowd as he reached career highs in several offensive categories: points (9), rebounds (4), assists (2), and steals (2). The youngster, who needs to improve his defensive skills, was able to steal the ball from Rose and pass for an assist. Gallinari downplayed the impressive steal, “I was just there. It happened. We switch a lot.” He admitted he felt more comfortable as he got increased time on court, “Your confidence grows with as many minutes as you play. My body feels pretty good. The crowd helped me a lot.”

More should be heard from both rookies as the years pass. Rose could be one of the standout NBA guards of the future. Gallinari, once his back is fully healed and he gets more familiar with the NBA style of play, could be important cog in the powerful machine Knicks President Donnie Walsh hopes to build.

 

About William Gerena-Rochet

William Gerena Rochet, is the former Latino Sports baseball editor. He is a retired NYC teacher who divides his time living between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He started writing for Latino Sports during the inaugural World Baseball Classic when a series was played in Puerto Rico in 2006. On of his favorite moments was covering the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. During his time with Latino Sports, he covered several divisional and League championship series games and the 2009 World Series. He also covered the last game at the old Yankee stadium and the first game of the current one. In closing, William has covered multiples Latino Sports MVP Awards ceremonies and Spanish Language Press Conferences including the Jorge Posada retirement one. Now a contributor, Willie will occasionally cover the Yankees.