BOSTON — Danilo Gallinari and the Celtics reunited at practice on Thursday in what marked one of their final sessions before the playoffs. Gallinari continues to travel with Boston to maintain access to their rehab staff and sit in team meetings. He never ruled out a return this season — and still won’t — following his second torn left ACL of his career in August.
He smiled at Derrick White entering the scrum after signing some autographs at the team facility, hoping to have White join him for an interview with reporters where he announced continued progress in line with the timeline he received upon injuring the knee. Gallinari also admitted it’s difficult to return during the postseason. Most ACL recoveries take 9-12 months, which takes him to June, at the earliest, following his Sept. 29 surgery.
“Playoffs is still in my head,” Gallinari said. “That’s something that I’m looking forward to. I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but from a motivational standpoint, that’s always something that motivates me more. I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. Of course, you will have to go through one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, play five-of-five, so a lot of steps that need to be done before you play an actual game, and maybe even after all those steps, you’re not ready for a playoff game, because when you don’t play the whole season, then be ready to play a playoff game, it’s not easy for anybody, not just body-wise, but mentally. It might happen. We’ll see.”
The Celtics did not release a timeline when they announced Gallinari’s surgery in September, though skepticism exists regarding his ability to play this year. MassLive reported Boston offered Payton Pritchard, two second-round picks and Gallinari, who owns a $6.8-million player option for next season, in exchange for Jakob Poetl, which the Spurs declined. Grant Williams, Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet and Blake Griffin stepped into the front court role the team originally signed Gallinari to fill.
In recent months, Gallinari focused on balance to catch up his left knee’s strength to that of his right. He recently began making cutting moves on the court in controlled environments, putting up shots and hitting them at a rate that impressed Derrick White. Brad Stevens and Joe Mazzulla both saw Gallinari flying on the treadmill faster than they’d seen before.
“He’s working hard. He doesn’t seem to miss anytime I watch him shoot,” White said. “It’s good to see him moving around and doing things we’re used to seeing Gallo do.”
Gallinari originally projected to compete with Grant for minutes while playing the five alongside him as insurance and a complement for Robert Williams III. Adding Mike Muscala filled the front court further, though Grant’s impending free agency could increase the team’s reliance on Gallinari next year if Grant departs.
Despite approaching 35-years-old this summer and 20 years in professional basketball, Gallinari eyes the future. He previously about the importance of playing for the Celtics and pursuing a championship, reasons he signed with Boston, but he won’t take the floor earlier than advisable just to contribute this year. Gallinari wants his career to continue for years to come.
“At this stage, maybe you want to push a little more, but at the same time, yes, I’m older, but I’m far from being done with basketball,” he said. “You don’t want to risk it too much, because you’re not that young, but you still got some years to play. The best way to do it is just listening to your knee, and whatever the knee is telling you, that’s the path you’ve got to follow and things that you’ve gotta do day-by-day.”