NEW YORK: Italy’s Danilo Gallinari likes the chances his Oklahoma City Thunder make a deep NBA playoff run if the season resumes, but says safety must be emphasized in any comeback plan.
The 31-year-old forward, whose homeland was among the nations most severely struck by the coronavirus pandemic, calls home to his family in Italy daily as he waits in Oklahoma City for the NBA campaign to resume.
“It’s tough to be far away,” said Gallinari in a video posted on the league’s website. “It has been tough, the effect of this virus and not knowing what’s really going on.
“The numbers are getting better so the situation is getting better, but it was a tough quarantine for about three months.”
The NBA shut after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on Mar 11 before a game at Oklahoma City that was postponed.
Gallinari likes the idea of restarting the season but insists precautions must be taken to prevent players from being infected by the deadly virus, which can also impose lasting debilitating effects.
“At the thought of going back and playing, I’m very excited,” Gallinari said. “At the same time, as a player, I want it to be as safe as possible.
“Everybody knows this virus is no joke. If we do it, we need to do it in a safe environment.”
Gallinari, unable to practice at a gym for more than two months, wants time to improve fitness and work with teammates before being ready to play at an NBA level.
“Just a couple days ago was my first time in the gym after more than two months – I was the happiest kid in OKC,” Gallinari said.
Gallinari, who came to Oklahoma City from the Los Angeles Clippers last July in a blockbuster deal for Paul George, averaged 19.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game before the shutdown.
The Thunder went 8-2 just ahead of the hiatus to stand fifth in the Western Conference at 40-24, one game behind Utah – missing a chance to match the Jazz for fourth in the West with Gobert’s test.
Gallinari thinks the Thunder can recapture that form quickly and make a strong playoff push if the season returns.
“It’s going to be a weird situation,” Gallinari said. “We were on a great run. Of course, two months off is not going to help. But with the chemistry we created, the way we want to play, we already know what we need to do.
“I think it’s just a matter of a couple of days, or a couple of games, to get back to that.”
A major relief for Gallinari with Italy easing coronavirus restrictions is his mother being able to end a home lockdown.
“She was the one that was struggling the most. The mental part was the tough part for her,” he said. “But now the rules are looser and she’s going to be able to see friends and family, so that’s a good thing.”