Marquette v St John's

JaKarr Sampson leaving St. John’s for NBA Draft


St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson won Big East Rookie of the Year last season and considered jumping to the NBA.

He returned to schooland as is the tendency – didn’t improve all that much.

His jump shot got a little better, helping him increase his field-goal percentage from 45 to 49. But he still doesn’t have 3-point range, and his game has stagnated more than not. He’s still an extremely athletic 6-foot-8 power forward with decent upside, but his college production has yet to match his potential.

So, he’s decided enough with college.

St. John’s release:

St. John’s sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, the 2012-13 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, announced Monday that he intends to forego the remainder of his collegiate career and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

“JaKarr will forego his final two years of eligibility and pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. We are grateful for JaKarr’s contributions to our St. John’s basketball program,” said Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin. “In speaking with NBA general managers JaKarr is projected as a draft prospect with intriguing talent and upside.”

ESPN ranks Sampson 137 overall, and he doesn’t crack DraftExpress’ top 100. (For reference, DraftExpress ranks him No. 33 among sophomores, and 31 sophomores made the top 100.)

It really seems unlikely he gets drafted, though it takes just one team to fall for his physical tools and believe it can groom him.

But I will never criticize a player for turning pro. There are way too many factors were ignorant of – how he’s doing in school, how he likes school, how much he needs the money, etc. People, not just basketball players, disenroll from college all the time.

Sampson was ineligible for what was supposed to be his freshman season, indicating a possible reason for him departing (and making him a year older than his classmates, lowering his NBA stock). Regardless, professional basketball, even if not the NBA, might better prepare him for a future in the sport. And in the meantime, he’ll get paid for playing.

The St. John’s release says Sampson is in the process of hiring an agent, so it looks like there’s no turning back. I hope Sampson didn’t make this decision on the assumption he’ll get drafted, but as long as he’s comfortable with the contingency options, this could work out better than it would have had Sampson stayed for his junior season.

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.