It’s not often I’m excited about a player that’s averaging 10.1 points and 3.3 rebounds, or at least enough so to write a whole column about him. However, it’s not often a player has two knee surgeries because the first one didn’t fix the torn ACL, and it’s definitely not often a player plays well under coach George Karl, coach Brian Shaw, and coach Melvin Hunt.
It’s not often players like Danilo Gallinari come around.
Yes, his season stats of 10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists a game don’t appear impressive on the surface. And yes, he’s currently just a role player on a team who is well below .500.
But no, naysayers! Danilo “the Rooster” Gallinari is not done for good.
Gallo is showing flashes of the player we knew before the injuries. The player that was a budding star, and was a huge part of the last Denver Nuggets team to make the playoffs — the team that went 57-25 and finished as the third seed in the Western Conference. Flashes of the player that averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while aiding that team to tie the Nuggets franchise record for wins.
I admit, it was easy to believe that Danilo would be done for good, or that the player we once knew was gone forever. It’s not often a player tears his ACL, and then – before he plays a single minute in the NBA again – has to have surgery on that same ACL because the first surgery “didn’t work.”
The Italian forward had to miss an entire season. The 2014-15 season represented the first time he could play since he was 24, and he’s 26 now.
His averages aren’t what they were pre-injury as well. However, it does take significant time for a player to get comfortable with the NBA speed and size when coming back from a freak knee injury. We’ve seen far too many great ones lose significant ability and time because of knees that wouldn’t corporate, and a big part of that is typically the mental block of forgetting the injury.
Lately, it looks like Gallo is feeling comfortable. Since the All-Star break, Gallinari is averaging 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists a game. Gallo’s played well under the crazy turmoil that lead former head coach Brian Shaw to a pink slip, and Gallo’s played well while getting back to a fast break offense with new coach Melvin Hunt. The forward’s shooting percentages since the All-Star break have actually improved a bit over his pre-injury numbers.
Gallinari is shooting 39.4 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from three and 91.7 from the free throw line in the 10 games since the break. In the season he got hurt, he was better from the floor (41.8 percent) but he was worse from the three-point line (37.3 percent) and from the free throw line (82.2 percent.)
It feels damn good to have a 90 percent free throw shooter on the team again. The Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony teams make me miss accurate free throw shooting, and Gallo is certainly the Nuggets best.
He’s also the Nuggets’ best leader. Danilo has clearly emerged as the locker room leader from the player side, and was even seen barking at his teammates for a missed defensive assignments and with encouragement when they make a good play.
The Nuggets have the old Gallo back right now, and with his return the forward is using his new found leadership to give the Nuggets one of the few bright spots in this losing season.