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NBA AM: Gallinari on the Road to Recovery

Danilo Gallinari discusses his health and timetable for return while attending adidas Eurocamp in Italy. … Does staying in Minnesota make sense for Kevin Love?

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Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari talks about his re-hab, getting healthy and what he expects from the Nuggets next season.

Danilo Gallinari Stops by adidas Eurocamp While Rehabbing From Knee Surgery

On April 5, 2013 the Denver Nuggets announced that Danilo Gallinari had torn his ACL playing against the Dallas Mavericks. Gallinari underwent surgery to repair his meniscus, but the surgeons did not repair his ACL, believing it would heal on it’s own. Unfortunately, Gallinari’s ACL did not heal, and he underwent another surgery on January 21, 2014 to reconstruct the torn ligament.

On Monday, Basketball Insiders caught up with Gallinari at adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy to see how his rehab is progressing.

“The body is very good,” Gallinari said. “We are four months out of the last surgery right now, so it’s going to be an interesting summer to recover, especially mentally because the body is feeling pretty good now. I got to get back on the floor and get back and feel the ball, and one-on-one and the five-on-five, so it’s going to be a working summer.”

When asked how it feels to be back on the court, going through basketball drills and exercises, Gallinari said: “It feels great, to have the chance to do what you do everyday, what you love to do everyday, and to not be able to do it for more than one year has been frustrating, but now I can do it, I’m back on the court and it feels great.”

Though he has been on the sideline for over a year, Gallinari has found other ways to improve his game, including how to take care of his body.

“I think that I am much better because you have the chance to focus on other things on the basketball court and maybe when you are playing you don’t do that much, but I think that that part has always been in my nature, always been in my repertoire, so I’ve been feeling pretty good with that,” Gallinari said. “But you have the chance to improve in some part of the game, not just the game, but some part of the body that you didn’t work before. I had the chance to know the knees, both knees a little bit better, to work on the muscles that I didn’t even know that I had those muscles before, so you have the chance to know your body better.”

The process to get back on the court has been long for Gallinari. However, he stays motivated by understanding that a career in the NBA does not last forever.

“I think you only have one life,” Gallinari said. “You only live one life. The basketball career, the average in the NBA is five years, but let’s say that you play a lot of years, or that you play 10 years in the NBA, that’s a small window. In that small window you got to give everything you got, because you don’t want to get old and think about the past, ‘that I should have done this,’ ‘I could have done this,’ so you want to do everything right now.”

At just 25, Gallinari still has time to make the most of that small window. He is surrounded by a lot of other young, talented players who will collectively try to make it back to the playoffs next season after finishing eleventh in the Western Conference this year. Gallinari believes that if the Nuggets can overcome their injury problems, they will be a very competitive team next season.

“I think that we can be a very good team, if we have a healthy team we can be very good,” Gallinari said. “We had a strange season with all these injuries than ever happened I think in the history of the NBA. It’s going to be an interesting year. Everybody is very excited in Denver. I’m excited, all my teammates are excited because we know that we have a good team and we have a chance to shock somebody and our goal is to make it to the playoffs in the best position we can.”

Injuries were the main problem for Denver last season, however, another issue was adjusting to rookie head coach Brian Shaw and his system. Gallinari believes having a year of experience under Shaw will pay off moving forward.

“It’s going to be very helpful,” Gallinari said. “I think he’s a great coach and he showed to us and everybody this year, and everybody loves him. He’s a player’s coach, he’s very close to us. You can talk to him about everything you want, and he’s very close to players and everybody loves to play for him and so that’s one of the most important things. That’s one of the reasons why we are very excited to start training camp.”

For now Gallinari is back home in Treviso, taking in the adidas Eurocamp.

“I think it’s a great opportunity every year, and especially to be back home is great,” Gallinari said. “To see friends, especially to see the young kids growing every year, the level is great and so to have the chance to represent adidas, not just all over the world, but especially in Italy, in Treviso where was one of the first places where Eurocamp was based on is a great opportunity, not just for adidas, and for all these kids, but also for me. To learn about them, to teach them a little bit and to follow them in the process, and also to work with my adidas family, that is always great to travel around the world with them every summer.”

The Nuggets sorely missed Gallinari this season as he is one of the most versatile forwards in the league. Hopefully his rehab continues to progress smoothly so he can help Denver get back to the playoffs, and so he can get back to making the most of his window of time in the NBA.


Blazers forward Nic Batum talks about the season, his team and what he is working on this summer.

Does Staying In Minnesota Make Sense For Love?

Last week, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said that he would like to speak directly to Kevin Love about Love’s desire to be traded. Rubio stated that the team had gotten better each year since his rookie season, and Love leaving would undo all that progress. In addition, team president and new head coach Flip Saunders told KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis-St.Paul that Love did not have the right to be frustrated.

“Just like I told (Kevin) Garnett, he didn’t have a right to be frustrated,” said Saunders. “Why does any player have a right to be frustrated? You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Should the team be frustrated? Yeah, the team can be frustrated. But I don’t think any one individual should be frustrated.”

Do Rubio and Saunders have a point then? Is Minnesota progressing, and can Love be part of the solution towards towards breaking the Timberwolves’ 10-year playoff drought?

Rubio joined the team in 2011-12, a season in which the team had increased its win total from the previous by nine games, in a lockout shortened season. Since Rubio’s arrival, the team has gone from 17 wins, up to 40 this season. Thus, it seems Rubio is in fact correct, the team is making progress. Nevertheless, Love has still never reached the playoffs, and that is plenty of reason to be frustrated.

This year’s team was projected to break the 10-year drought and compete for a playoff spot. By the end of the season, the Timberwolves had a +2.7 point differential on the season, better than the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, all of whom finished ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference standings (10th in the West). Additionally, the Timberwolves finished 10th in offensive efficiency, and 15th in defensive efficiency. So why did the Timberwolves fall well short of making the playoffs?

Most importantly, the team was inexplicably bad at closing games. After losing to the Raptors on January 17, the Wolves were 0-12 in games decided by five points or less. By the end of the season, the Wolves were 6-14 in games decided by five points or less. Simply put, the Wolves lost too many games in the closing minutes for a multitude of reasons.

Some of the other major issues included an anemic bench, poor rim protection, and poor perimeter shooting. The Minnesota starting lineups ranked seventh in the league in offensive efficiency among starting units, whereas the bench ranked 24th in the league in offensive efficiency among benches, which illustrates how big of a drop off there was when players like Love sat.

In addition, the Wolves were incapable of protecting the rim, allowing opponents to shoot 63.1 percent from within five feet of the basket, and blocking 3.6 shots per game, ranking last in the league in both categories. Neither Love, nor Nikola Pekovic could keep opposing players from attacking and finishing at the rim.

Also, the team made just 600 three pointers on the season (17th best in the league), connecting on only 34.1 percent of their attempts (26th best in the league). Outside of Love and Kevin Martin, no one shot at a particularly high percentage from beyond the arc.

Yet, in spite of all these issues, the roster has a solid foundation, and is  in need of tinkering, rather than a complete overhaul. Rubio is not a top-5 point guard, but he is better than he gets credit for. He will soon start training in Los Angeles with a new shooting coach, addressing the biggest issue in his game. Kevin Martin proved to be everything the Oklahoma City Thunder had originally hoped for when they traded James Harden, a wing scorer (19 points per game) and a lethal three point shooter (38.7 percent from beyond the arc). Corey Brewer is probably best suited as a backup small forward, but he filled in admirably as a starter this season, contributing 12.3 points per game, along with almost two steals and two assists. Nikola Pekovic missed 28 games, but is one of the best offensive centers in league when healthy. He is now backed up by Gorgui Dieng, who showed towards the end of the season that he could be a big time contributor at center moving forward. On March 20, Dieng chipped in 22 points, 21 rebounds, 4 assists and made 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Four days later, Dieng scored 15 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block. Most importantly, Dieng addresses one of the biggest issues for the Wolves, as he is a very capable shot blocker. The team also has the 13th pick in the upcoming draft, where players like Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas, Rodney Hood, and Zach Lavine could still be available.

Minnesota will need to add players who can knock down open jumpers, such as Anthony Morrow, who is set to be a free agent this offseason. Also, Rubio needs to take the next step in his game and join the upper echelon of point guards. In addition, Dieng needs to turn his flashes of brilliance into consistent production, providing a shot blocker down low, and sub for Pekovic off the bench. Lastly, Saunders needs to get more out of the team’s talent than former head coach Rick Adelman did this past season. The progress needed to end the playoff drought and compete may seem like a lot, but the majority of the necessary pieces are already in place.

For now, all indications are that Love has made up his mind, and a reminder from Rubio about the team’s progress will do little to change that. The frustration and issues go beyond missing the playoffs each season, and a move to teams like the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, or Golden State Warriors is simply more appealing to Love at this point. Yet, when considering Rubio’s comment about the team’s progress and taking a look at the pieces already in place, maybe giving the Timberwolves at least one more year makes more sense than Love realizes.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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