DENVER- At the end of last season, Nuggets’ forward Danilo Gallinari vented his frustration and disappointment about Denver’s 2016-17 campaign to the Denver Post’s Chris Dempsey.
“In the beginning of the season I wanted to go to the playoffs,” Gallinari told Dempsey. “I thought we had the chance to do it, that we had the team to do it. So, mission not accomplished.”
The Italian-born 6-foot-10 shooter was in the midst of recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the final stretch of the season, just the latest in a series of injuries that have kept him from the court for substantial periods of time during his career with the Nuggets.
Since being traded to Denver as a part of the blockbuster deal for Carmelo Anthony in 2011, Gallinari has played more than 70 games just once. In the three full seasons Gallo has been on the Nuggets’ roster, he’s played in an average of 61 games.
Life without Gallinari isn’t a pleasant one for the Nuggets. He was their leading scorer before suffering his season-ending ankle injury and went 12-21 during the two periods of the season when was out dealing with his ankle injuries.
Simply put, if Gallo is going to accomplish his “mission” and get the Denver Nuggets back to the post-season, he must be able to stay healthy for the entire year. General manager Tim Connelly agrees.
“Gallo’s our best player,” Connelly said in a conversation with ESPN during summer league. “We obviously need to have him back. The rehab process has gone well for him and we expect him to be a major contributor for us this year.”
The Nuggets have built a roster stocked full of young talent in the last two years that could indeed put Denver down the road to a playoff berth in the near future. Second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and rookie combo guard Jamal Murray both the talent to become stars in the NBA.
As he told Dempsey at the end of the season, Gallinari wants to compete for an NBA championship.
“Coming to Denver, that’s all we talked about–championship and going to the championship,” Gallinari said. “Playoffs was not even a problem. We knew we were going to the playoffs every season.”
Gallinari’s contract includes a player option at the end of this season. Whether or not he takes it will almost certainly be decided by how comfortable he is with the direction of the organization. In April, Gallo seemed to be fairly happy with how things were progressing, despite his misgivings about the Nuggets’ record.
“We have a young team,” Gallinari said. “The whole season we got better. I’d be shocked if we got worse. I don’t know how you could get worse. Since the beginning of the season every practice, every game you get better. So, we’re definitely getting better.”
Yet, if the Nuggets somehow do become a worse team in 2016-17 than they were in 2015-16, it may not be long before Gallinari moves on with his career.
“Experience I think is a big part of getting better and being a better team and going to the playoffs and towards the championship,” Gallinari told Dempsey when asked about the Nuggets’ future. “I don’t know if that’s enough to go to the championship. I don’t know.”