Thabeet adjusts to life in the D-League

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On the court, the game is still the same. As Coach Norman Dale taught us, the basket is 10 feet high and the free throw line is 15 feet away from it, whether you play in Madison Square Garden or North Dakota.

On the court, Hasheem Thabeet showed some of the flashes of promise that made him the number two pick overall last summer during his D-League debut for the Dakota Wizards. After a slow start he finished with 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting, 13 rebounds and had a couple of big blocks. He showed a couple little offensive moves he never got to put to use in Memphis.

Off the court, the D-League and NBA are not the same at all.

Hasheem Thabeet grabbed his sneakers and began wandering around the visitors locker room last Friday at Tulio Arena in Erie, Pa. He had just made his debut with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League, but he was still finding his way. Where was the equipment bag for his sneakers?

“Hasheem, this is the D-League,” Wizards coach Rory White told him. “And in the D-League, you carry your own sneakers.”

If Thabeet suddenly felt thousands of miles removed from the trappings of the NBA lifestyle, then there would be more. Oh, so much more. How about folding up his 7-foot-3 frame on Monday afternoon and flying coach from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Detroit … and then from Detroit to Minneapolis … and then from Minneapolis to Bismarck, N.D.? Farewell, charter flights.

This was exactly what Thabeet needed — some burn. He is only going to get his confidence up, to start to play better, if he gets in games. And that is hard in Memphis, where Mark Gasol has been good and the team needs to win to make the playoffs. There is no time for projects.

The D-League is all about projects. About making guys like Thabeet better. It’s also about commercial flights and carrying your own sneakers and long bus rides.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.