When the Boston Celtics acquired Danilo Gallinari this summer, Brad Stevens had finally added the ‘shooting with size’ that he’d been looking for, and the Celtics bench unit had clearly received an upgrade.
However, things didn’t go according to plan, as Gallinari suffered an ACL injury whilst playing for the Italian national team at this past summer’s EuroBasket tournament. As such, we’re yet to see the sharpshooting forward suit up in a Celtics jersey and have been limited to the occasional workout video as Gallinari continues to ramp up his rehab.
Yet, when speaking to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe for a recent interview, Gallinari discussed his desire to play again before the season is over, which would add further depth and scoring to the Celtics' rotation and potentially provide a significant boost to their chances of winning a championship.
“My mind-set is that I want to play, and that I’m going to play at the end of the season...I want to play in the playoffs. So that’s the mind-set that helps me every day get better and motivates me even more,” Gallinari told Himmelsbach.
While Gallinari may feel capable of recovering from such a significant injury, there is still no guarantee that he will be game ready before the end of the current season or the beginning of the post-season. Furthermore, as we saw with Robert Williams during the 2022 playoff run, being cleared to play and being in physical shape to make a significant impact are two totally different things.
It would seem that Joe Mazzulla is keeping an open mind, though, as he recently joked about Gallinari’s potential availability during a recent press conference.
“I saw him jogging on the treadmill and I was like, ‘I haven’t seen you run much faster than that in a game.’ So I thought he was playing tonight,” Mazzula told Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
Joe Mazzulla was asked Danilo Gallinari wanting to return from a torn ACL before the end of the season:— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) January 23, 2023
"I saw him jogging on the treadmill and I was like, 'I haven't seen you run much faster than that in a game.' So I thought he was playing tonight."
Of course, Gallinari is realistic about the work ahead of him and how far he’s got to come before being cleared for actual NBA play. Right now, the updates we’re getting are of him shooting around in an empty gym or getting some light jogging work done. As you could imagine, those workouts are a far cry from what Gallinari will need to withstand in order to be back on the hardwood with his new teammates making his Celtics debut. Fortunately, the veteran big man is under no illusion of the battle he faces.
“It’s not going to happen soon. But doing more and more stuff on the court, more heavy stuff in the weight room, going from a jog into an actual fast run, these are the steps I’m looking forward to.”
It will be interesting to continue following Gallinari’s developments over the coming months and seeing whether or not he’s able to enter the Celtics' rotation and provide them with a significant boost to their bench depth. Having played 728 regular-season games and 48 post-season contests, Gallinari knows what it takes to win, and there should be no doubt that his career 38.2% average from deep would not solidify Boston’s five-out offense when some of the starters head to the bench.
Of course, if he doesn’t make it back to full fitness in time, Gallinari has a player option for next season which he will likely opt into, meaning sooner or later (barring a trade), we will see the sharpshooting forward patrolling the court in a Celtics jersey.