Danilo Gallinari: An Unanticipated Thunder Hero
When the summer blockbuster deal between the Thunder and Clippers went down last summer, most assumed that Danilo Gallinari was not long for OKC. The prevailing school of thought was that Gallo, as a supremely gifted scorer on a one-year deal, would be gone by the trade deadline, bringing back whatever assets Sam Presti could receive in the trade. With the first stretch of the season featuring a brutal start, this only intensified the belief that he would be a short timer in OKC, but Destiny had something else in mind for the Thunder. Slowly, game by game, this patchwork group of players learned to not only play together, but thrive. They went from excruciatingly close losses to finding a way to win regardless of the odds, absolutely infuriating teams with their clutch performances and magical three point-guard lineup (for which Gallo provided lethal marksmanship and floor spacing).
By the time the trade deadline was near, OKC was firmly in the playoff picture, fighting for seeding. A far cry from the predicted lottery bound fate of the team. At the trade deadline, Sam Presti decided to stand pat, letting this team finish the season intact. By rolling the dice like this, Presti was willing to risk losing Gallo for nothing in the offseason for a chance to see what happens. This is a sign of respect for the capability of the team, with complete buy in from Chris Paul, Gallinari, and Dennis Schröder, who all wore question marks coming into the season. Presti felt these players earned the chance to go as far as they could go this season in Thunder blue (which, at the season’s pause due to COVID-19, is the 5th Seed in the West).
Gallo has been positively splendid in all facets during his year here in Oklahoma City. He has stayed healthy, (a big issue for him in years past), brought veteran leadership and poise to the roster(on and off the court), completely bought into the team concept Billy Donovan constructed (spacing the floor, shooting from three, ball movement), and has been wonderful with the community (visiting the OKC sights, charitable efforts, etc). One of the most impactful things Gallo has done all season was his assist to the Oklahoma City Medical Community: he donated quite a substantial amount of money to purchase personal protective equipment and supply COVID-19 tests in the OKC area. This selfless act is a demonstration of a great man who truly gets it, and understands his ability to help those in his communities. He also made significant efforts to help with the COVID-19 Crisis in his native Italy.
This isn’t the behavior of someone who plans on just floating on this offseason, and going through the motions in the meantime. I believe he legitimately cares about the Thunder and the Oklahoma City community.
As he disclosed in a sit-down with Daily Thunder’s Brandon Rahbar, Gallo has truly loved his time in OKC. He has not only warmed up to the city and organization, but feels a part of something special here. The sharpshooter was relieved and thankful to have avoided being traded at the deadline (Miami made a strong push for him, but a deal was not finalized), as he has formed a strong bond with his teammates, city, and organization. When asked about re-signing with the Thunder in the summer, he was earnest in his openness to stick around OKC for the long haul.
We don’t know what the future holds for OKC and Gallinari, but this year has been awesome. Clutch shots, an iron clad bond with the team, and a selfless devotion to the community are just a few of the joys he has brought this year. Worst case scenario, he walks this summer, but would do so on great terms with everyone involved with the team. His impact on and off the court has definitely earned him that respect and admiration.
Having said all that, he certainly doesn’t seem like a guy who plans to leave town on the first plane. In what was considered a ludicrous longshot at the beginning of the season, the odds are now good that he will indeed stick around OKC for the near future. Thunder fans would really love to cheer him on again next season, as OKC’s Unanticipated Hero.