|The Italian international has had a career wracked by injury|
By the time Italy's Danilo Gallinari turns 26 in August, he will have completed 16 months on the sidelines because of the torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left knee, which he sustained on 4 April 2012.
On Tuesday, the charismatic forward underwent surgery in his knee to completely reconstruct his ACL and he is not to return to action before some time next season.
The news on the surgery came as a surprise, as Gallinari was seen recently spending time with his Denver Nuggets team-mates on the practice floor, even undergoing light training routines involving a ball.
The timing of the operation, nine and a half months after he suffered the injury, left many in Denver and in Italy perplexed, especially since it had been announced that Gallinari had one operation approximately three weeks after his injury and one last June.
Gallinari himself explained in more detail the sequence of events that have led to this situation, in a heartfelt personal message which reflects his frustration and disappointment.
"Do you remember 12th June? I do, it was the day of the second intervention in my knee," the Italian star wrote to his fans.
"In reality it was not a real 'ACL reconstruction operation' in that the surgeon used a new technique called 'Healing Response', in simple words he induced the physiological repair of the tissue.
"In the months that followed I had a rehabilitation process that I would call perfect, six very intense months, and the knee felt very strong and is well-structured in terms of muscles, I have not had any pain.
"But I have had a light instability and that inevitably started creating doubts to me and to my physiotherapists.
"After detailed tests, it was discovered that the ligament has still not healed in its entirety!"
"So, 'Healing Response' was not successful.
"So I have now done a third intervention, but the first for the reconstruction of the ACL.
"Of course I would have preferred it wouldn't have happened and I am upset, to say the least.
|Loyal to the Italian cause, injury meant the 25-year-old missed EuroBasket 2013, after helping Italy in the qualification process|
"Many of you will say 'couldn't this doctor think before making you lose your time?' but it's now useless to think of it again or argue, you cannot go back."
Gallinari's career has been mired by a string of injuries ever since he was a teenager, and one can only wonder the heights he would have achieved had he remained healthy for longer stretches of time.
He famously missed out on EuroBasket 2007, his first major tournament with the Italian senior national team, after suffering an injury on the final day of preparations.
The shooting forward was also unable to suit up for Italy in the three years that followed until European fans finally got to see him play with the Azzurri at EuroBasket 2011 and then in the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013.
Since joining the New York Knicks in 2008, Gallinari has had only two relatively injury-free seasons.
This unfortunate track-record not withstanding, the shooting forward will now have to battle his way back from the longest lay-off he's ever faced.
But past experience suggests that the Italian can and has all the rare traits necessary to pull through this.
"Knowing Danilo's drive and work ethic, we look forward to a full recovery and a healthy return to the court next season," Denver general manager Tim Connelly said in a press release.
Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw also trusts Gallinari's ability to overcome this latest setback.
"I know how hard he worked to try to get back to this point," Shaw told the Denver Post.
"That's only going to help him out in his rehab now going forward.
"So we're all behind him. Like I said, it's disappointing and unfortunate but it's the hand that we're dealt and we have to deal with it and help him deal with it as best we can."
Italy, who finished in eighth place in September's EuroBasket in Slovenia, applied for a wild card to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which takes place in September.
If the Azzurri are not among the four countries to receive the wild card, they will participate in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round.
Either way, Gallinari will only be able to watch his Italy team-mates from the sidelines, just as he did at EuroBasket 2013.