Danilo Gallinari isn’t ruling out Celtics return this season after ACL tear

"My feelings were that something big [was] happening in my knee."

Danilo Gallinari
Danilo Gallnari, here pictured earlier this year, isn't thinking about a return this year. Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff

Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari knew he was in trouble right away.

Playing for the Italian national team this summer, Gallinari suffered a non-contact injury. Initially, team trainers diagnosed it as a torn meniscus, but Gallinari wasn’t convinced. Sure enough, his injury was soon amended: He had torn his ACL for a second time after first suffering the injury in 2012-13.

“The way that I got injured was very similar to the way I got injured the first time I did my ACL,” Gallinari told reporters on Tuesday. “So yeah, my feelings were that something big [was] happening in my knee. Unfortunately, I was right.”


Gallinari — who spoke to Boston media for the first time on Tuesday since his injury was diagnosed — admitted the injury is “tough, mentally” for a 34-year-old.

“The good and the bad thing is that I’ve been through this already, so I know what to expect,” Gallinari said. “But it’s always tough, especially when you approach a situation like this, coming to play for the Celtics, ready to help the team winning. It’s tough, but nothing I can do about it. We’re here and now we’ve got to focus on the rehab.”

For Gallinari, this season was supposed to be a return to his roots. He grew up a Celtics fan idolizing Larry Bird, and he reportedly had interest in joining the Celtics for years. This year’s team was expected to contend for a title, and Gallinari was supposed to be a crucial floor spacer last year’s team lacked.

Instead, on Oct. 11, Gallinari is still looking forward to when doctors will allow him to shoot free throws again. He only started walking recently after his surgery.

“Small things,” Gallinari said. “When you’re doing exercise, you can do more reps the next day or you can do reps better the next day. The PTs, they add a couple of exercises every day so that’s a great thing that happened every single day. So, small things are big things in the rehab process.”


Gallinari didn’t rule out a return this season.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” he said. “That’s the best way to approach a rehab and approach an injury like this, to take it day by day and not really think about what’s going to happen in the future. So that’s the approach that I have.”

Whether or not Gallinari makes it back, the Celtics look like they will survive his absence. Sam Hauser took his opportunity in preseason and ran with it — knocking down triples at an incredible clip to boost the Celtics’ offense. With Hauser and Grant Williams spacing the floor and Malcolm Brogdon leading the charge, the Celtics’ second unit looks like a force.

“Obviously, like you said, you never want to see someone go down like that, but I’ll be ready for whenever my number is called,” Hauser said. “Whatever opportunities I get, I’m excited for that.”

Gallinari, meanwhile, believes the Celtics have something special.

“I think practices have been great and you can see the mental approach to the team and every day working great,” Gallinari said. “That’s the difference between great teams and average teams, and I think that this is a great team.”


Whether or not he gets a chance to join that great team remains to be seen, but Gallinari said he intends to hang around with them all season — a presence interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said he gladly welcomes.

“He’s great,” Mazzulla said. “He’s played for great coaches, he’s been on good teams. He’s had a lot of experiences. I think he’s handling his rehab very well and I think just him being around gives us an experienced presence.”


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