After missing all of the warm up games heading into the qualification round of EuroBasket 2013 Danilo Gallinari played in Italy’s opening contest against Portugal. Gallo compiled ten points and nine rebounds in only 15 minutes as part of Italy’s 97-45 victory.
It is very promising to see Gallinari back on the court and performing effectively. The Rooster has only appeared in 63% of the regular season games the Nuggets have played since arriving as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011 (57 performances over 90 contests).
It is easy for players to acquire the label “injury prone” and Gallinari is well on his way to earning that distinction. He has only played in more than 80% of his team’s games once in his four year career. In his rookie season it was a bulging disk that triggered the need for a “low-risk procedure” to release pressure on a nerve in his back. The procedure was a success and Gallo has not experienced any apparent issues since he completed his recovery.
In his second season Gallinari played in 81 games for the Knicks and followed that up by taking part in 48 of the Knicks’ 54 games prior to being traded to the Nuggets.
His initial campaign with the Nuggets saw him miss eight games after fracturing his big toe. He missed the final two games of the season with a sprained ankle, but appeared in all five playoff games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the truncated and compacted schedule last season Gallo missed 23 of the 66 games, 13 due to an ankle sprain and ten due to a fractured thumb. So over his tenure in Denver he has fractured to digits and sprained an ankle. Does that make it appropriate to label him with the dreaded moniker of injury prone?
I would argue it does not. I made a case several seasons ago that Nene, who had many other, but equally unrelated injuries, did not deserve the injury prone label after he recovered from cancer. Despite all the various physical issues he encountered, it was clear he was dealing with bad luck more than anything else. After overcoming cancer, Nene played in 77, 82 and 75 games over the next three seasons and remained healthy until missing ten games in a row with a foot injury after being traded to the Wizards last season.
I see some of the same bad luck and mostly random injuries with Gallinari and I also expect to see Gallo return to the level of health he displayed with the Knicks in his second and third seasons where he played in 129 of a possible 136 games. It is important to keep in mind, even though he has missed numerous games as a Nugget, Gallo has played in each of Denver’s 12 playoff games since becoming a Nugget and that is significant. Those are the games where he needs to answer the bell and he has.
If I am right, it will bode well for the Nuggets as he had a tremendous season derailed by his two injuries. Gallo was posting a PER well over 20 (if I remember correctly, it was even above 21) before he sprained his ankle and the Nuggets were playing at a high level. If, and it certainly is an if, Gallinari can stay on the court, Denver can be one of the better regular season teams in the West in line for home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
Should he continue to be bit by the injury bug, especially back issues or fractures to his various phalanges, it will be a red flag. At this point in his career the injury prone label should be kept on the shelf and Nuggets fans should expect to see Gallo play in over 70 games in 2012-13.