Vittorio Gallinari was a 6-foot-9 forward known for his defense, and got to play the peak of his professional career about 30 miles from his hometown for Italian powerhouse Olimpia Milano. Mike D’Antoni was his teammate.
So when Danilo Gallinari was born in 1988, it was a given that he would become a Celtics fan, considering his father’s own admiration of Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
And in taking less money to sign a two-year contract with the Celtics early in free agency, the change in uniform for the 33-year-old, 14-season veteran felt especially natural.
“Many reasons,” he said Tuesday of signing with the Celtics, as Vittorio sat in the front row of the press conference. “But when you think about the Celtics, I grew up with my dad since I was a little kid being a Celtics fan, being a Larry Bird fan, so when the Celtics came on the table it was almost like a no-brainer.
“You walk even in this facility, you look around and see what’s going on around the banners and the history and everything the Celtics were about, it was an easy choice.”
After signing on Monday with the Celtics, Gallinari posted “the place I’ve always dreamed” to his Twitter account, and it all started with the player he’s always tried to emulate. Even when he started as a Knick after being taken with the eighth pick in the 2008 draft, the Bird references wouldn’t stop.
“The first meeting – when I got drafted by the Knicks, Donnie Walsh was the GM – the first meeting that I had with him over the summer, he gives me this CD, and it’s a Larry Bird CD, and he says, ‘Look at these videos every day and see what you can do’,” said Gallinari. “Of course, Larry Bird is a legend and so it’s not easy to do the stuff that he was doing. But I looked at those tapes every day. And so, like I said, it’s great to be here and I can’t wait to wear those colors.”
Brad Stevens then pointed out that Gallinari’s road was tough at a young age because he had to play against his father. “It took this guy a few years to be able to beat his dad from what I learned last night,” said Stevens.
The new Celtics forward shrugged and said, “It was pretty easy at 15 years old.”
Freedom to do more
Though Stevens’ largest traded player exception – the $17.1 million tool that expires on July 18 – is now on the clock, he has a collection of smaller TPE’s that could easily come into play at some point soon. The penalty is that, though it can be used to match the salary of a player coming back in a trade, said contract will boost the Celtics’ luxury tax bill.
But Stevens said today that he’s not constrained by ownership on running up the bill.
“They’ve been great about that this whole time,” said Celtics president said of ownership. “It has been whatever we need to do to try to maximize our opportunities and we obviously have a really good core, a really good team, and fortunate to make these two really good additions, and we wouldn’t be able to do that without that commitment from them. And so, we’re obviously thankful and I think that’s been – we’ve had the green light the whole time to make those calls.”
Another big man
Stevens said that his search for a backup big man is ongoing. He has two promising summer leaguers in Mfiondu Kabengele and Trevion Williams who will get a longer look. He also said not to count out Luke Kornet for those end of rotation big man minutes.
Boston, MA. – April 19: Luke Kornet #40 of the Boston Celtics hangs on the rim after dunking during the first quarter of the NBA game against the Chicago Bulls at the TD Garden on April 19, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
“We’re better set up to play ‘smaller’ than we were just because of the size of (Brogdon and Gallinari), and got a lot of different options there,” he said. “But we’re really high on Luke. We’ve been really high on Luke. We thought he had a terrific G League season and we think that he can step right in and be a passer and a ball handler and a mover and a screener and a roller when need be and we’ll probably add one more person that can play in that area.
“But we’re really believing in Luke as not only depth – he can obviously fill out the roster – but also be ready to help us and help us win and I think he’s at that stage where he can do that. But we’re still looking and we’ll still add at least one more body at that, whatever we call the five position nowadays.”