Danilo Gallinari’s warning to those who forgot about him
LOS ANGELES – When the L.A. Clippers retooled their roster last summer after trading away Chris Paul, one of the biggest and most critical moves was the three-team, sign-and-trade deal involving the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks that sent forward Danilo Gallinari to Hollywood. Even prior to this 2017-18 season, he was thought to be a major risk due to the injury history the Italian forward was bringing with him to Los Angeles.
Gallinari notably missed nearly all of last season with a number of injuries last season, starting with a fractured thumb in the summer, moving onto a sprained foot in the preseason, a pair of separate glute strains throughout the season, and finishing out the season with a broken hand suffered shortly after the All-Star break.
The Italian forward didn’t play basketball for the first month of the offseason, opting to give his hand optimum time to heal. After meeting with Clippers officials and doctors, Gallinari also opted not to play for his National team in the FIBA World Cup in September. It was a tough decision, but he instead focused on not only his hand, but also developing a bond with his Clippers teammates, most of whom he had never played with before.
“Compared to last year, yeah, I am [much healthier],” Gallinari told ClutchPoints this preseason. “It wasn’t just me. Unfortunately, it was a lot of my teammates to, but I feel good. I feel good now so there’s no looking back. I feel good now and I plan to feel good the whole season.”
Gallinari insists he doesn’t read newspapers or pay attention to what people are saying about him on social media, but he admits to having heard the stigma that he’s injury prone. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t echo that sentiment.
“I mean, it’s just not reality. They say injury prone, but at the end of the day, what happened last year, it’s never happened to me before. After my ACL injury, my last four years, I’ve played with no problems. Four seasons in a row with no problems. It’s something that came out just because I got injured, had surgery in my back my very first year as a rookie in New York. So it’s like, ‘Ahh, okay… He comes from Europe? He’s gets injured right away? In New York? In his rookie season? He’s injury prone.'”
It’s really tough to side with Gallinari on this one, especially considering the fact that he’s played an average of 56 games over his last eight seasons (including 43 of the 62 games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season). At the same time, he hasn’t been as injury prone as people make him out to be. Most the injuries haven’t been ones that held him out for more than a week or two. He’s had ankle sprains, groin strains, thigh contusions, knee strains, and shoulder injuries, but those are bugs that generally spread across the NBA throughout the grind of an eight month, 82-game regular season.
As one of the veteran leaders and the highest-paid player on the team, Gallinari wants to redeem himself and put on a great showing for a fanbase that’s seen injury after injury haunt their team over the last handful of years.
“For sure, absolutely,” said Gallinari about wanting to play for Clippers fans. “That’s going to be a great motivation for me this year. What happened last year, not just to me… To me, it’s never happened before, but what happened to the team too is amazing. I’m sure, stats wise, it’s impossible that a team goes through what we went through again, so I’m looking forward to coming back strong.”
In a lot of early predictions and top 100 lists from well-known sites, Gallinari isn’t named anywhere as a key to the Clippers offense despite being the 1B to Tobias Harris’ 1A. Together, the duo plans to attack mismatches all year with both being able to shoot from outside, take opponents off the dribble, and work from the post as well.
He doesn’t mind that Harris has been one of the most talked about Clippers this offseason. In fact, he’s been among those gassing Harris up all preseason, praising his IQ, work ethic, and ability to work really well alongside him. Not many, however, have talked about Gallinari other than a few of the local media guys or blogs.
In four preseason games, Gallinari has averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field in just 21.2 minutes per game. Granted, it is the preseason, but it’s a much better start to the year for Gallinari than last October.
“Do you think people have forgotten how good you are?” I asked him after a game this preseason.
Gallinari, looking down as he took his sweater off the hanger and smirked. Within two seconds, I had my answer. Then the Italian proceeded to give everyone who has forgotten about him a bit of a warning.
“I don’t know,” responded Gallinari. “Honestly, I don’t care. I know how good I am, I just have to do it for the team. I guess they’re going to see it again this year. They’ve been seeing it for 11 years in the NBA and three years overseas so its been a while already.
“If anybody forgot, I feel sorry for them. They’re going to see it again this year.”