Trying to educate sportswriters about their complicity in hazing incidents will take some time, especially when the reporter is otherwise a good reporter. Bias has no place in the newsroom.Â My objection specifically is to the term “time-honored tradition of rookie hazing” in pro sports–in this case the NBA. I’m not overreacting and not ignoring either.Â I expect more from reporters and their newspapers than from the professional athletes. C’mon, Frank’s editor. Have a talk with him.
HEADLINE: Danilo Gallinari not galled by hazing
BY FRANK ISOLA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Thursday, January 29th 2009, 11:55 PM
Danilo Gallinari looks like a rising star in his rookie season with Knicks, and while veterans have noticed Italian’s talent, they’ve been equally impressed with how he’s handled hazing. Keivom/News
Danilo Gallinari looks like a rising star in his rookie season with Knicks, and while veterans have noticed Italian’s talent, they’ve been equally impressed with how he’s handled hazing.
When Danilo Gallinari walks out of a visiting locker room carrying a plastic bag filled with water bottles and Gatorade, the Knicks’ rookie isn’t being frugal or trying to save every last penny of his per diem.
The drinks, it turns out, are for his teammates. The same teammates who will ask Gallinari to fetch a BlackBerry that was left on the bus. Or request that he carry their bags, retrieve basketballs after practice or recover their foul workout gear.
It’s all part of the NBA’s time-honored tradition of rookie hazing that every player must experience, even celebrated first-round picks from Italy.
“I have no problem with that,” Gallinari says. “I knew that there was some rookie stuff that I would have to do.”
Gallinari, 20, was given advance warning on what to expect in his first year from his fellow countrymen and current NBA players, Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani and Golden State’s Marco Belinelli. They made sure Gallinari would not experience culture shock.
“They told me some things,” Gallinari admitted. “They said I might have to carry some bags but that it wouldn’t be too bad.”
In fact, Gallinari made the transition to a new league, country and locker room easier for himself by following the unwritten code of respecting the veterans and never questioning their orders. David Lee remembers that when he, Channing Frye and Nate Robinson were all rookies, the veterans picked on Robinson because he once joked that he wasn’t going to do some of the things required of first-year players.
“You know Nate, he said one thing and that was it,” Lee joked. “Me and Channing didn’t have it as bad as Nate had it.”
The veterans have gone easy on Gallinari for several reasons: they sympathize with his arriving for training camp with a bad back that sidelined him nearly three months of the season. If anything, Gallinari earned their respect with the amount of time and effort he put into his rehabilitation.
Plus, the players generally like Gallinari, whom they regard as confident but not arrogant. It says a lot about the locker room to embrace and not resent a player considered part of the franchise’s future when most of the current players, especially the veterans, won’t be around in two years.
“He’s been great,” Jared Jeffries added. “There’s a lot of pressure on him and to top it off he showed up injured. And he has had to adjust to a different culture. But he’s tried to fit in and that I think that has made everyone respect him even more. I like the way he’s handled himself.”
“We’re not trying to punk him,” Quentin Richardson said. “We have good guys on this team. We’re not trying to make him do crazy stuff.”
Jeffries remembers having a much tougher rookie initiation with the Washington Wizards. At the time, he was only 19 joining a team featuring the king of rookie hazing, Michael Jordan, and another high-maintenance veteran in Charles Oakley.
“I carried a lot of bags that year,” Jeffries said. “And if you didn’t do it you got fined. I was also dealing with men. These guys were 35 and 36 years old. I’m not going to make anyone do the stuff that I did until I’ve been around for 10 years.”
When Malik Rose broke in with the Charlotte Hornets, his job was to buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts on game days and to attend to the needs of veterans such as Glen Rice and Ricky Pierce.
“Ricky would always say, ‘Young fella, I need the newspaper. Young fella, I need this. I need that'” Rose said. “I don’t think he knew my name. He would just call me ‘young fella.'”
Gallinari’s teammates call him “Gallo” and the youngest Knick appreciates the treatment he’s received – even if it means having to run a few errands now and then.
“They’ve helped me a lot in this process,” Gallinari said. “This is part of having good chemistry. It is different here (compared with the European League). We travel a lot and you play almost every day. But I’m feeling good with that. It’s been fun.”