Danilo Gallinari was a beast in his Italy's first Eurobasket loss against Turkey. When he came out of the game the team's offense seemed to collapse and with scoring 33 points he had more than a third of the Italian team's scoring. Driving, shooting, drawing fouls and playing with a purpose. Those are all the things Nuggets fans want to see from Il Gallo when the Nuggets begin play at the end of October.
Yet, one thing that has been consistent with Gallo is he considers anything that sets him apart from his team as "selfish". Said so himself several years ago after the Nuggets traded for him (the fabled Carmelo Anthony deal). Gallo has all the characteristics and magnetic ability to be a leader in every way, but is very reluctant to set himself apart from his teammates even though he has the capability to do so. In an article published today on the Eurobasket official site, Gallinari reiterates that stance ... even though he is clearly the best player on the Italian team.
Yet the media from all over Europe, as well as Italian fans, still assign the label of the Italian national team leader to Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari never asked for that label and, in perfect accordance to Gentile's view, he does not even feel that leading Italy in scoring and putting in an early bid for tournament top scorer is worth a special mention.
The Denver Nuggets forward does not even want any credit whatsoever for playing with the national team at EuroBasket 2015 rather than taking some time off this summer.
He returned to action this past season following a very long lay-off caused by complications to the treatment of the ACL injury he sustained in April 2013.
"If I am ok physically, I don't see why I should not come to play with the national team," Gallinari said in a matter-of-fact way.
"I love playing for Italy and we hope to do something nice together."
He must surely, at the very least, feel that he is under the spotlight.
"We all feel a certain weight on our shoulders because our fans, our families, our friends, want us to do well," Gallinari replied.
"But that is natural for any national team, nothing beyond normal."
Sometimes, one can be unselfish to a fault. In the NBA, you need to take control ... you need to demonstrate you are the best player on the team and show that others will follow you. Gallo has seemed reluctant to be set, or even set himself above his teammates. Yet, he is the best player, and whether he likes it or not ... he is the leader of a Nuggets team that desperately needs a flag to march behind until rookie Emmanuel Mudiay can become what we all expect of him.
Nate Timmons and myself have seen Gallo the leader. He is well liked in the locker room, calms people down and is a rock steady element that you need in a team. However Gallo refuses to set himself apart. Not because he is afraid of being a leader ... but because he considers anything outside "team" to be selfish. This is something he needs to change, and change quickly.
In the NBA, you need to have that guy. The leader. Gallo's greatest fault is what makes him a good guy. Gallo needs to take control and be the guy he knows he is but refuses to demonstrate. It's not selfish to be who you are, which is the best player on this young Nuggets team. He NEEDS to be this because just being a piece in the machine isn't what this particular version of the Nuggets needs. They need Gallo to be the leader like he was at the end of last season when Ty Lawson appeared to be checked out on the year.
This is where head coach Michael Malone comes in. Malone's biggest task isn't only developing a team with a rookie point guard. His task is to reach it's best player, Gallo, and let him know that being said player is ok. Not selfish. Not egocentric. It's what his TEAM needs. If Gallo understands this, then this Nuggets team may turn out better than people assume they will.
If not, Gallo will find himself trade bait for a team looking for an additional piece as a contender. Those are the facts of life, and hopefully he understands what he needs to do.
For his sake as well as the Denver Nuggets.