Thunder: Danilo Gallinari's one season in OKC included legendary post-practice shooting competitions
The same game unfolded after every Thunder practice last season.
Danilo Gallinari and a group that usually included Mike Muscala, Dennis Schröder and Abdel Nader would compete in an intense variation of around the world. The objective was five makes at five spots around the 3-point arc, and once finished, the eventual winner would have to go around the arc with one additional make from each spot.
Mark Daigneault, then a Thunder assistant, was always stationed at the hoop where the game was played. Daigneault recalled one of Gallinari’s epic performances.
“One day he didn’t think they were playing,” Daigneault said, “and he walked off the court and he took his shoes off and then they like yelled at him: ‘Gallo, you’re not playing today?’
“And so he came back, but he never put his shoes back on and he won the game barefoot. Gallo’s the champion at that game.”
Gallinari, now a member of the Atlanta Hawks, confirmed the details. The veteran forward reunited with Daigneault, Muscala and a few more former teammates on Friday night in the Hawks' 118-109 loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Gallinari only spent one season with the Thunder, but it was one of the most productive campaigns of his career. He averaged 18.7 points per game on 44% shooting, and he shot 41% from 3-point range.
“There’s nothing he can’t do,” Daigneault said. “He can drive it, he can pass it, he shoots the heck out of it, he gets fouled, he can post, he can play on the perimeter. He’s a really tough cover.”
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Gallinari was the No. 3 scorer and the top 3-point shooter on a Thunder team that finished 44-28 and took the Rockets to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
“I wish there were the OKC fans ... because that would’ve been great,” Gallinari told The Oklahoman on Thursday, a day before scoring eight points on 2-for-8 shooting in his OKC return. “That would’ve been an amazing atmosphere. It was an amazing season. I had a lot of fun. I’m very happy to be back.”
Gallinari’s contract expired at the end of last season, and it became clear that the 32-year-old Italian sharpshooter would be moving on.
Gallinari joined the Hawks on a three-year, $61 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade that netted the Thunder a conditional 2025 second-round pick.
Until Wednesday night, it had been a bumpy first season for Gallinari in Atlanta.
Injuries forced him to miss 12 games, and he’s come off the bench in all but one game. After averaging 30 minutes per game with the Thunder, Gallinari is averaging 21 minutes per game with the Hawks.
His scoring average (11.8) has dipped seven points from last year, and it’s the lowest it’s been since his 2008-09 rookie season with the Knicks.
But then Gallinari erupted Wednesday night in a win against the Celtics.
He scored 38 points on a franchise-record 10 3-pointers. Gallinari shot 13-of-16 overall and 10-of-12 from behind the arc.
“Hopefully he has a cooler hand tomorrow night,” Muscala said Thursday.
On the same night Gallinari scored 38 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 42 points in the Thunder’s win over the Spurs.
Gallinari knows Gilgeous-Alexander well.
They were Clippers teammates in Gilgeous-Alexander’s rookie season, and then they were packaged together with picks in the Paul George trade.
“His second season was a huge step,” Gallinari said. “I knew he was gonna do that step, because you could see all the talent that he had and the IQ that he had for the game already as a rookie in his first season. I’m very, very happy for him. I knew he was gonna be this kind of player. I think OKC is very lucky to have him.”
Gallinari has gone from playing with one star point guard from the 2018 draft class in Gilgeous-Alexander to another in Trae Young, who scored 17 points in his return to his home state Friday night.
“He was a really fun guy to play with, a great teammate, and I definitely miss having him around,” Muscala said of Gallinari, “but not those shooting games.
“It’s kinda nice not having him around this year in that sense.”