Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - a day that will long be celebrated and remembered in the annals of Celtics history. On this most glorious of days, Danny Ainge worked his GM magic and acquired one of the most astounding players in Celtics-fan-favorite history - Luigi Datome.
The Italian sharpshooter was wasted on the Detroit bench, and was brought over to the C's, along with Jonas Jerebko, in exchange for Tayshaun Prince. Datome had not been successful in his stint with the Pistons, and was sent packing to bring Prince back to his old stomping grounds.
Oh, how blind they were.
Luigi's arrival was not heralded with the playing of trumpets or the singing of choirs, nor was he immediately plugged into the Celtics' rotation. In fact, he had to work his way onto the court, beginning with his contribution to one of Boston's most exciting finishes of the season.
I'm sure some of you remember this moment:
Clearly, that is not Gigi. In fact, the Italian didn't play a single minute in that game, and only played 19 total minutes in the 7 games before that. However, soon after the thrilling buzzer-beater, a report surfaced that Datome may have played a small part in Zeller's last-second shot.
"Actually, Gigi walked up to me right before and said, 'you've got time for one shot fake,'" Zeller said. "And that's exactly what happened."
If you look carefully in the gif above, you can clearly see the young center wisely taking the venerable European's advice, to spectacular effect.
Gigi's legend would only grow from there. He began to appear on the court with much more frequency, averaging 7.5 minutes over the final 23 games of the season, in which he shot 51.5% from the field, and went 16 of 31 from beyond the arc. The sharp-shooter was shooting sharply again, providing floor-spacing and points of the bench, as well as making a few savvy plays on defense.
Gigi grew in popularity, as fans began to discover more and more about him off of the court. According to Jay King, in his free time, Datome enjoys reading. When asked what he likes to read, his response was "books". Before games, when his teammates would prepare for the game with energy or sports drinks, Datome would have a cup of hot coffee.
His season culminated with a dominant performance in the final game of the regular season. Gigi started against the Milwaukee Bucks, and put up 22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block, shooting 60% from the field and 42.9% from deep. The 27 minutes that the Italian played during that game were a Boston sports fan's dream; the fan-favorite received the canvas with which he would paint a masterpiece. Every bucket was met with ever-increasing applause, until his final baskets aroused a ceaseless standing ovation.
Datome would go on to be a non-factor in the playoffs, logging a combined 14 minutes over the 4-game series. However, the impact he made on the hearts and minds of Boston fans would remain, securing him as a Celtics fan favorite.
When Luigi Datome came to Boston, there were no grand expectations for his performance. He was largely considered a throwaway addition to a deal that would get rid of Prince's contract. However, he was able to make a legitimate impact on the team and on the fans, and for that he should be commended. He will go into this off-season as a free agent, and may not return to Boston next year, especially with James Young waiting in the wings. However, I think we can all agree that his presence on the team this year made the Celtics even more fun to watch.
Grazie mille, Gigi!
All stats from espn.com and basketball-reference.com