SACRAMENTO — Danilo Gallinari has played over 750 NBA games, logged more than 22,000 minutes, scored more than 11,500 points and has made north of 3,500 shots. In the grand scheme of things, very few have who enter the sport’s most prestigious club are able to have 14-year careers. Even fewer are able to be featured as heavily as Gallinari has at times.
With that many miles logged, memories have come and gone for the 35-year-old. He says he doesn’t remember most of them. “I have a bad memory,” Gallinari said before I put him to the test last week in Sacramento.
Out of curiosity, I like to see how much randomness a longtime NBA player can recall about his career. In my mind, they have to remember their first points, first dunk or first game-winning shot like they happened yesterday, right? Well, that hasn’t always been the case in my years doing this exercise with various veterans who pass through Detroit. This is the ultimate test, one that provokes a trip down memory lane, provides great stories, humor and, well, is a good icebreaker.
Gallinari, who was waived by the Pistons following the deadline, agreed to be the latest to take a “pop quiz” about his career for The Athletic. The questions ranged from career milestones to coaches over the years, career-high games, trades he’s been part of and much more.
You were the only Italian player drafted in 2008. There was an Italian player drafted the year before you and the year after. Can you name them?
The year before was Marco Belinelli.
Not the year before.
He was two years before.
He was the year after, no?
Belinelli got to the league before me. That’s for sure.
I think Belinelli was after you and Andrea Bargnani was before you. Did I mess up? I thought Bargnani was 2007 and Belinelli was 2009.
Look it up. Bargnani is three years older than me and Belinelli is two years older than me.
*looks it up*
I apologize. You’re correct. That’s on me. In all of the pop quizzes I’ve done with players, I’ve never messed up like this. I have no clue what I was looking at. Anyway, one Italian who didn’t get drafted but came in the NBA around the same time as you was Luigi Datome, who played for the Pistons. Is there a relationship between you two? If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t he called the “Italian Kobe,” or did I make that up?
We do have a good relationship. I never heard that nickname for him. We always called him, “GiGi.” He was a late-bloomer. He had a great season before he came over to the NBA. I think he won the MVP of the Italian League. Yeah, he was a late-bloomer.
Your first NBA field goal came midway through your rookie season. Who did you score against and who assisted the 3-pointer?
Oh… that’s tough. I think it was against Philly.
You got it. Who passed you the ball?
Was it Chris Duhon?
Love Jamal, but did he pass? It wasn’t him. It was Nate Robinson.
Ahh! That’s right. It was Nate.
You had a unique rookie season. You played in the first two games, I believe, and then had to miss a few months with a back injury. How difficult was that period for you? Not only were you in a new country but you were a top-10 draft pick for the Knicks.
It was tough because when you get drafted by the Knicks, there are a lot of expectations, of course. It was tough because I wanted to show the kind of player I was right away. I wasn’t able to do that my first season. I think I only played 28 games. I shouldn’t have even played those games. I had a pretty serious back problem and we decided to do surgery at the end of the season. It was tough.
What were the most points you scored in an NBA game?
We lost in overtime.
Did you even get to enjoy it?
I was talking to Raymond Felton. He was my teammate in New York and Denver. I think he had a layup to win the game. I was talking to him at the end of the game and I was like, ‘I had a great night. You couldn’t let me win this f—— game?’
I remember talking to Raymond at the end of the game.
Can you name every NBA coach that you’ve had in the NBA? You have to do it in order. You’ve had 13 coaches.
Yeah I can.
Joe Mazzulla, but at the beginning it was Ime Udoka.
Wes Unseld Jr.
You got them. Do you have a good George Karl story?
Yes, I have a lot of good stories.
Give me one that you feel comfortable sharing.
I remember he used to say, “If you cheat the game, the game will cheat you. Always be true to the game and the game will be true to you.” My third season, which was the best regular season in franchise history for the Nuggets, we started 0-3. Three losses in a row, all on the road. He pulled me into the office and said, “Listen, I’m a little worried. We have to win all of the home games and have to stay at .500 on the road.” I told him not to worry, that we’ll be fine. I wanted him to stay positive because he was a little negative sometimes.
We ended up with a home record of 38-3, which is a franchise record. The three games we lost were against Miami, which was a very good team, and then the other two were against the worst two teams in the league at that time — Orlando and Washington. I remember we won 15 in a row in the month of February, which was another franchise record. We finished 57-25.
Personally, I’d say the best dunk of your career was the coast-to-coast dunk against the Lakers. Who did you dunk over?
I dunked over both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
This one is tough. Obviously, you were part of the Carmelo Anthony-to-New York trade. Can you name every player the Nuggets and Knicks got in the trade?
So, the players the Knicks traded were me, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler.
Yep. Who did the Nuggets trade?
For Denver, it was Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and …. I can’t remember. Who was it?
It was those two plus Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman.
You had the game-clinching poke away and dunk for Atlanta in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals a few years back. Who did you poke the ball to and who passed it to you for the dunk?
It was Kevin Huerter.
Now that time has passed, how shocked were you guys in the moment to make that run?
We didn’t expect it. I signed with the Hawks and they had been losing for some years. They were a very young team. Of course, the goal was to start winning, bring a winning mentality and change the culture a little bit. We didn’t expect to go that far. We did expect to go to the playoffs, but we didn’t expect to go that far. That was an amazing run.
Last one, and it’s not really a trivia question: You have worn the No. 8 the majority of your career. Why?
I was born 08/08/1988.
Oh, OK. Makes sense now why you went with No. 88 in Washington D.C.
Yep. No. 8 wasn’t available there and it wasn’t available here in Detroit. One of the two-way guys has No. 8.
Yeah, Jared Rhoden has it. You couldn’t pry it away for like $100?
I would have thrown him even more.
Haha! Thanks for doing this.
(Photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images)