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'We are fighting for something': Danilo Gallinari all in with Thunder

Danilo Gallinari, perhaps more than any of his Thunder teammates, could argue that he has a financial incentive to sit out the NBA's restart. 

Gallinari will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and one of the best players available in an underwhelming free agent class. He's a month away from turning 32, and although he's stayed healthy this season, the smooth shooting power forward has dealt with major injuries over the course of his 12-year NBA career. 

Resuming the season in strange circumstances before his next contract might not be worth the risk, but Gallinari said he never considered opting out. 

"Not in my mind or my agent's mind," Gallinari said Friday on a conference call. "The main reason is because we are fighting for something, and I think that what we are fighting for and what we play for is more important than the free agency that I'm going to approach." 

Gallinari spoke like a Thunder lifer, but it hasn’t even been a year since the Clippers shipped him, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a haul of draft picks to the Thunder for Paul George. 

Gallinari quickly settled into Oklahoma City’s starting lineup, and he’s been a key to the Thunder’s surprising 40-24 record. The Italian forward is averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting a team-high 41% from 3-point range. 

What appeared to be a pit stop in Gallinari’s career has turned into something more. 

While Gilgeous-Alexander quarantined in Canada and Steven Adams returned to his native New Zealand, Gallinari stayed in Oklahoma City as the coronavirus spread.

NBA games were still being played in packed arenas as the pandemic rampaged through Italy. Gallinari, sitting in his locker at Madison Square Garden on March 6, knew from family and friends how devastating COVID-19 was. 

“To stop the situation we need the help of all the citizens,” Gallinari said that night. “Everybody has to behave in the right way.” 

New York was overwhelmed by the virus shortly after the Thunder beat the Knicks. The season was suspended five days later, in Oklahoma City, when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

Gallinari said Americans, like Italians, underestimated the virus. 

“Now the situation is a little different. In Italy, it’s very good now,” Gallinari said, noting that his family is healthy. “But there are some states now in the States that are not doing well. The cases are going back up. I always said that this is a long process and that this is not something we are going to fight and beat in one day. It’s going to take a while.”

Gallinari and his fiancee have passed the time by going on long walks. 

“In Italy, I would not have been able to go out of my house,” Gallinari said. 

Gallinari also worked out by himself at the team’s practice facility five days a week. 

“But it’s never like a basketball game,” he said. “You can do everything you want like that, but then all of the sudden you can go up and down a couple of times during a pick-up game and you feel tired. So, it’s going to take a little bit for us to get back in that shape once we get to Orlando.”

Gallinari is guaranteed at least 12 more games with the Thunder before his $22.6 million contract expires. Then comes the uncertainty of free agency. 

But that uncertainty isn’t swaying his decision to play. 

“We are trying to win something,” Gallinari said, “and to go far.” 

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) gestures after a steal in the final minuet of an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) gestures after a steal in the final minuet of an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-857b831bf1929e6287e8d2524597a284.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) gestures after a steal in the final minuet of an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) gestures after a steal in the final minuet of an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) gestures after a steal in the final minuet of an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Oklahoma City won 106-101. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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