Denver Nuggets Player Review: Danilo Gallinari

Forward was enjoying career year before season-ending knee injury
by Aaron Lopez

Through the first five months of the season, Danilo Gallinari showcased the versatility that makes him so valuable to the Denver Nuggets.

He hit 3s, attacked the rim, created shots for teammates and knocked down free throws at an 82 percent clip.

In a matter of seconds, it was all gone.

Gallinari’s career year was cut short when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while driving to the basket on April 4. He averaged a career-high 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds while leading Denver with 135 3-pointers.

“To have it disappear in one fell swoop, that’s a hard thing mentally for anybody – whether you’re a 15-year vet, a rookie or a five-year guy like Gallo,” Nuggets assistant Chad Iske said.

“We all felt we had a great opportunity this year. You don’t know how many times you’re going to have an opportunity this good. The most important thing is you’re there to show him support because you really don’t have incredible words of wisdom for him.”

Though the Nuggets enjoyed tremendous depth, Gallinari’s absence was felt during Denver’s first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

They shot .438 from the field, including .311 from 3-point range. The lack of a consistent outside shooting threat made it difficult to open the middle of the floor for playmakers Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller.

“Every team we play knows they don’t want to give Gallo open 3s,” Iske said. “It opens space for Ty. He also can act as your point guard because he can handle the ball and pass it. His overall versatility offensively is something only a handful of guys in the league have.”

Gallinari, 24, is awaiting knee surgery, but the Nuggets remain optimistic he will return to contribute in 2013-14.

“We know with our training staff and Gallo’s desire to get back, they’re going to work as hard as possible to get back where he wants to be,” Iske said. “It needs to be about the quality of his return, not just how quickly he gets back. You want him to be 100 percent healthy mentally and physically before he gets out there.”

Dec. 28, 2012, at Dallas Mavericks
Scoring in a variety of ways, Gallinari had a career-high 39 points and added eight rebounds to help the Nuggets to a 106-85 road win over the Mavericks. Gallinari made 7-of-11 3-pointers and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in 34 minutes.

Since Gallinari arrived in Denver on Feb. 22, 2011, the Nuggets are 16-0 at home when he scores at least 20 points.

2013-14 OUTLOOK
Facing ACL surgery, Gallinari likely will miss a portion of next season. There is no timetable for his recovery, but the Nuggets are hoping he can return to provide shooting and playmaking on the wing. “Maybe his return gives us momentum going into the playoffs instead of having to fight through the disheartening notion of losing one of your key guys late in the season,” Iske said.