This summer, Danilo Gallinari has the opportunity to do something he’s never done in his nine-year NBA career: Become an unrestricted free agent.
The Italian forward can either sign on for one more year in Denver for $16.1 million or test the free agency waters and sign a contract with any NBA team he wishes.
Gallinari said Thursday that his mind is not made up either way.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not time right now to make the decision. How I see it is right now it’s time to digest the fact that we were not able to accomplish the goal that I had and we had at the beginning of the season. Right now it’s time to go on vacation and rest the body. Then I’ll make a decision.”
The goal Gallinari was referring to was making the playoffs. This marked the fourth-straight year the Nuggets failed to make a postseason appearance. Denver hasn’t been back since it fired George Karl as head coach following a 57-win season in 2012-13.
The Nuggets showed signs of growth this year. Nikola Jokic emerged as a star; the Nuggets were the the NBA’s most efficient offense since he became the starting center in mid-December. Gary Harris showed major improvement at shooting guard. Rookie Jamal Murray forced his way into the rotation. Denver won 40 games — seven more than it did last year. That was not lost on Gallinari.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “I try to see the positive things, and you can see a lot of positives that happened this year. The fact that we won more games. The fact that we lost a lot of games in the last possessions; if you win 50 percent of those games, you’re talking about being the fourth seed, the sixth seed in the West.”
Gallinari also mentioned how much he likes living in Denver. He has a house here and said he plans to live in the city when his professional basketball career is over.
“You live in the same city for six or seven years, you have friends, you have your house, you have the place where you go for groceries,” he said. “These things together make Denver a very enjoyable city.”
Still, he admitted, all the losing the last four years has stung. Gallinari came to Denver from New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade during the 2010-11 season. The Nuggets made the playoffs in his first three season with the team. They haven’t been back since 2013.
Gallinari, who averaged 18.2 points (44.7% FG, 38.3% 3s), 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season, turns 29 in August. If he opts out, he has the chance to cash in on a lucrative multi-year deal.
“I love Gallo,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “I think Gallo has made no secret how much he enjoys this city and organization. I joke with Gallo quite a bit that he hasn’t opted out yet, so fingers crossed.
“I’m always pretty optimistic. But I think it depends on the market. Gallo’s unrestricted, so he’s got a say in where he wants to go as well. I don’t know how the offseason will develop. I think it’s a pretty top-heavy free agent class. I think when the top two or three guys go, the dominoes will start to fall behind them. Like always, we’ll be aggressive. Having familiarity with a guy that we don’t just know but that we like will make the situation a bit easier for us as opposed to the other 29 teams.”
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