|19 April 2012|
|EuroBasket 2011 was the first big tournament with the national team for Danilo Gallinari - now he wants to make sure Italy are there in 2013, too |
Danilo Gallinari is one of the most gifted basketball players in the history of Italian basketball.
That is a fact.
The 23-year-old forward is nearing the end of his fourth NBA season and has provided plenty of evidence to Denver Nuggets fans that he is going to be a superstar.
The hope back home in Italy is that Gallinari will be the talisman for a national team that is trying to reestablish itself as one of the dominant forces on the old continent.
This is a country that captured the gold medal at EuroBasket 1999, clinched bronze four years later at the event in Sweden and then claimed silver in 2004 at the Athens Games.
However, Italy didn't qualify for the 2008 Olympics, EuroBasket 2009 or the 2010 World Championship.
The good news for Azzurri fans and coach Simone Pianigiani is that Gallinari, who has been bothered by ankle and thumb injuries this year, will be with Italy in their EuroBasket 2013 qualifying campaign.
"This summer I will be there (with the national team)," Gallinari said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It has been a particularly difficult (NBA) campaign but I guess if I did another job, this would not have happened.
"It is part of the game and I am well now.
"I am focused on the end of the season."
Gallinari was bothered by back problems earlier in his NBA career.
Injuries have limited him to 39 appearances in this NBA Lockout-shortened season.
When healthy, the former Olimpia Milano star has been very productive, averaging 14.5 points.
There have been times when Gallinari has not only looked like the best player for the Nuggets, but one of the best in the league.
|Gallinari left New York for Denver over a year ago - the move proved beneficial to both the Italian forward and the Nuggets|
In a victory over his former team, the New York Knicks, back on 21 January at Madison Square Garden, he exploded for 37 points .
That happened during a five-game stretch when he averaged 23.8 points per game.
The injuries then disrupted his season.
He missed a month because of a chip fracture in his left ankle, from 7 February to 4 March, and then broke his left thumb on 19 March.
The thumb injury sent him back to the sidelines for three weeks.
Since 9 April, Gallinari has been playing big minutes and looking as if he could be primed for a big run in the play-offs if the Nuggets qualify.
They are seventh in the West with a 34-28 record - a half-game behind sixth-place Dallas (35-28).
Once the NBA year ends, Gallinari will be anxious to return home.
He says he is looking forward to going back to Italy and rejoining the national side for their EuroBasket qualifiers against Turkey, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Portugal.
Italy have Gallinari, Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani and New Orleans Hornets guard Marco Belinelli.
All three are pivotal for the national side.
Last year at the 24-team EuroBasket in Lithuania, Gallinari averaged 15.2 points and 6.4 rebounds but the Azzurri won just once, against Latvia, and failed to progress from the initial group stage.
They fell in tough games to Serbia, Germany, France and Israel.
"We have started a new path," Gallinari said.
"We played together for the first time last summer.
"We didn't get the best results but at the start of any adventure, it's always difficult to win immediately.
"I think this summer will be very important to qualify for the next EuroBasket.
"We hope to get good results and play good basketball."