Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari has continued to document his progress as he pushes toward a return after tearing his left ACL in September. On Thursday morning, he shared another morsel, posting a video of himself going through some light one-on-one workouts with a Celtics staffer.
Gallinari has said for months that his goal is to come back during the playoffs and help the Celtics in their pursuit of a championship. But when he spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon, he did not sound like a player who would return in the near future, stressing that there is “still a long way” to go.
“You will have to go through one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, play five-on-five,” Gallinari said. “So, a lot of steps that need to be done before you play an actual game.
“And even maybe after all those steps, you are not ready for a playoff game, because when you don’t play the whole season and then be ready to play a playoff game is not easy for anybody, not just body-wise but mentally-wise. But like I said, it might happen. So, we’ll see.”
Gallinari tore the ACL while playing for Italy in a World Cup qualifier. NBA players are generally sidelined 8-10 months after suffering this injury, and a possible playoff return has been a dangling carrot for Gallinari as he plows through his monotonous rehab work.
The veteran forward, who turns 35 in August, acknowledged that at this stage of his career there could be extra motivation to accelerate the recovery, especially as a member of a team that could win an NBA title in a few months. But he also does not think this is his last opportunity.
“Yes, I’m older, but I’m far from being done with basketball,” he said. “So you don’t want to risk it too much, because you’re not that young, but you still have some years to play. So you just want to do it the best way, just listening to your knee, and whatever the knee is telling you, that’s the path you’ve got to follow.”
How do I feel IYO? 😎🔜🏀 pic.twitter.com/M4xM6L2BLi— DANILO GALLINARI (@gallinari8888) March 23, 2023
So for now he will continue to travel with the team and soak up as much as he can, while also dispensing advice to his teammates and coaches when there are openings. Even if he does not take the court this season, he at least would like to feel as though he is part of something big.
“He’s working hard and he doesn’t seem to miss anytime I watch him shoot,” Celtics guard Derrick White said. “I know he’s working towards it and it’s good to see him moving around and doing things that we’re used to seeing Gallo do.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said that guard Payton Pritchard, who has been sidelined since injuring his left heel in a March 6 loss to the Cavaliers, completed a workout Thursday and “felt a little bit better.”
Pritchard’s return date remains unclear, but Mazzulla said he will likely be back during the regular season.
Mazzulla added that center Robert Williams, who returned to face the Kings Tuesday after missing eight games with a strained hamstring, made it through the Sacramento game with no issues.
Williams came off the bench in that game, but Mazzulla said that starting lineups will likely be fluid and dependent on matchups.
“Putting our team in a bind like ‘this is our starting lineup’ just doesn’t maximize our roster and the lineups that we can play,” Mazzulla said. “So, we just have to see.”
Who needs seeds?
At 50-23, the Celtics entered Thursday in second place in the Eastern Conference, 2½ games behind the Bucks with nine remaining. Next Thursday’s showdown in Milwaukee still could give the Celtics a legitimate chance to move into first, especially since the winner of that game will hold the season tiebreaker.
But White, for one, said it’s not a major concern.
“If we get the No. 1 seed, it’s cool,” he said. “If we don’t, it’s the same. We didn’t have it last year, so we just want to keep playing the best basketball going into the playoffs, whether we are the No. 1, 2, or 3, it doesn’t matter.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.