I say, I say... Danilo Gallinari may be psychic. Or at least prescient. Let me explain.
Earlier this week, my colleague Jeff Morton wrote a great piece about the Denver Nuggets need for Danilo Gallinari to grow into a leadership role this season, starting with his Eurobasket stint alongside the Italian national team this summer. Just before Jeff wrote his article, Gallinari got off to a hot start in a first-game loss to Turkey.
A few games later, Danilo seems to have read Mr. Morton's mind, and may end up being the star of the tourney. After watching as much of the four games as I could find online, here's a quick look at Gallo's (mostly) torrid pace, and how that may translate to his upcoming Nuggets season.
Saturday, September 5th - Italy vs. Turkey
Gallinari comes out of the gates on fire with a 33 point, five rebound evening that was only marred by his one free throw miss (14 of 15 on the evening) which would have tied the game in the closing seconds. Gallo put Italy on his back, scoring 38% of his team's points and shooting 90% from the floor on the evening (eight of eight on two-pointers, and splitting his pair of treys).
Though Italy's defense was relatively porous throughout the game, Gallo was also excellent and active on the defensive end, with Turkey making up all their lost ground on the Italian squad when Gallo finally took a breather. Though the evening ended in a narrow loss, Il Gallo had an incredible evening. He also got under the skin of Turkish center Semih Erden...
Sunday, September 6th - Italy vs. Iceland
Gallo poured a lot of energy into the loss against Turkey, and had a quiet night against Iceland the following day, with four points on two-of-four shooting from the field. Gallo still made a number of contributions in his 18 minutes, pulling down 10 rebounds, with seven coming on the defensive end. Though Gallo didn't have his customary scoring punch, his team scored the last 10 points of the game to take Iceland 71-64.
Tuesday, September 8th - Italy vs. Spain
A night off got Danilo back in prime form, with 29 points, eight boards and six assists in 36 minutes of play. Gallo was once again torrid from the free throw line, going 13 of 14 from the stripe. Gallo kept Pau Gasol and Spain very busy down low, to great effect later in the game.
Gallo showed his usual efficient play throughout the evening, still getting a ton of reps to Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani all game. Gallo's offense kept spreading the floor for open looks for Belinelli, who went seven of eight from beyond the arc in the second half.
Wednesday September 9th - Italy vs. Germany
Back-to-back games didn't pull Gallinari down twice, as Italy matched up against Dirk Nowitzki and host country Germany yesterday. Gallo had his most complete game of the tourney thus far, with 25 points, nine boards and a pair of assists to go with what looked to be Italy's best man defense.
To top it all off, Gallo hit the late-game shot that brought Italy back from a 10-point deficit that tied the game and sent it into overtime. The primarily-German crowd was stunned by the late turn of fortune, in a game that many Eurobasket fans are labeling an instant classic. Here's Gallo at his Eurobasket finest:
So... Il Gallo is kicking ass in Germany. What does all of that translate to for his averages in the tourney thus far? Here are Gallinari's rankings amongst all 267 players listed as playing:
#1 in: Free Throws Made (10.0), Free Throws Attempted (11.0), Drawn Fouls (8.5), and 2 Pt Field Goal Percentage (75.0%)
#2 in: Points Per Game (22.8)
#3 in: Field Goal Percentage (62.2%)
#5 in: Minutes (32.0)
#6 in: Free Throw Percentage (90.9%)
#7 in: Total Rebounds (8.0)
#10 in: Offensive Rebounds (2.5)
#11 in: Field Goals Made (5.8)
#12 in: Defensive Rebounds (5.5)
Pretty sweet stuff, no? Though not against NBA-level competition, there are a lot of names playing in Eurobasket this season you'll recognize, and play has been quite good. What might Gallinari's success mean for the upcoming Nuggets season?
Danilo seems to have taken his leadership role with Italy quite seriously, and has repeatedly discussed his aspirations for the Nuggets and his play in articles throughout the offseason. Will he come to Denver ready to lead the squad? Signs point to great things. And though the break has seemed unbearably long, this happened only 22 weeks ago...
Aside from hoping that beard never returns, it looks like a new day is dawning for the Rooster, and he's already starting to crow.