We’re getting ready for the Wizards’ regular season, which begins WHEN, and Doc & Lynnell got a special guest as they filled in for BMitch & Finlay Tuesday: Danilo Gallinari, acquired by the Wiz as part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal!
Gallinari is the old man of the squad now at 35, and in his 16th NBA season (13 if you take out two lost to injury), he’s here not just as part of the deal, but as someone with experience who can help guide the new guard as the Wizards begin their retool.
And one of the big pieces of that is Deni Avidja, another tall international sharpshooter who just agreed to a four-year, $55 million extension, and will now learn from someone who basically set the mold for that kind of player along with others.
“You gotta give me a little percentage of that contract, just a little bit, right?” Gallinari joked. “But no, I’m very happy for him. I think he has a lot of room to grow; he’s still young but already in his fourth season in the NBA, and he’s a guy that brings his work ethic every day. He loves basketball, loves to study the game and get better, and it’s great to see a young guy who loves the game so much. That’s why I think he has a lot of room to grow still.”
As Doc noted, Gallinari’s size and skill-set speaks to the current NBA where three-point shooting, length, and spacing are key, and he thinks the Wizards, who many don’t expect to do much, can surprise.
“I think we got the right talent and depth, the right mix between veterans and young guys – even our young guys like (Jordan Poole) already got a championship,” Gallinari said. “It’s guys that know how to play basketball, so I think we’ve got, everything we need to win a lot of games.”
He’ll also be playing alongside this year’s first-round pick, Bilal Coulibaly, who also fits that mold a little bit albeit more of a true wing and shooter, and Gallinari is happy to be a veteran mentor to him too.
“When I think about my career, it was great to have great vets in front of you just so you understand what it takes and the work you have to put in every day, and I always tell guys to take care of their body,” Gallinari said. “I think he has the chance to have a long career and be a great at what he does and be a great player, so if he keeps the body and the legs right for every game, night in and night out, and every season, I think he’s going to be great. That’s the main goal; he has everything he needs to be a great player, and he’s been working hard every day. He doesn’t back down, and I think he can be one of the best two-way players in this league, which is something you don’t see a lot.”
And, Gallinari will be joined in the middle by Daniel Gafford, who has become a breakout star since joining the Wizards in the middle of the 2020-21 season, and looks to get even better as he navigates through his own big contract extension.
“I think we as teammates expect a lot out of him. We ask him to do a lot of stuff for us, and with all the new guys we have, it might take a little bit of time for him to find the right chemistry to be effective, especially on the offensive end,” Gallinari said. “But defensively, I think just focusing on being dominant as a rebounder and shot blocker, and a great in the paint defender, and then slowly get more points and be even more effective on the offensive end. I think the sky is the limit for him.”
When it comes to himself, Gallinari is in the second year of the two-year deal he signed with Boston before missing last year with a torn ACL, so he’s returning to the court this year – and seeing some time at different spots, including the five, as he adjusts to both life post-injury and post-trade.
“I didn’t expect that trade; I had a meeting with the Celtics on a Friday and everything was looking good, and then on Tuesday I got traded – but, that’s the NBA, that's how the business works,” he said. “But, with every new chapter there is a lot of excitement, so for me, coming back from the ACL, it’s just a chance for me to play basketball and prove that I still can hang out with these young guys and still be effective on the court. This team gives me the chance to do that, in a slightly different role, but that’s where the minutes are and that's what I'm gonna play to help the team.”
The Wizards don’t have a lot of size, but feel Gallinari’s length will help him succeed at the five around the young core – and he’s bought into that defensive commitment that Wes Unseld Jr. brings.
“It’s an everyday thing that the coaching staff needs to talk about every day and work on every day, and it's something that you gotta repeat,” Gallinari said. “Sometimes it's easy to think about offense and think about what we can do better on that end, but defense, honestly, there is not a lot of talent needed there. It’s more being willing to play defense. It’s on coaches to motivate players and find a way to get players to commit on the defensive end.”