Danilo Gallinari is set to become a free agent again after The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that the Pistons had waived the former Boston Celtics free agency prize on February 8. Once he clears waivers, Gallinari will likely have a robust market. Even if he's not the consistent 20-point scorer he was at the top of his game, Gallinari has proven that he's still capable of being a flamethrower in his brief time in Motown.
Even if the modern sample size is small and his injury rap sheet is so long that it would put the Great Wall of China to shame, Gallo has maintained legitimate appeal as a player. Defensive inadequacies and all, the Rooster is still a floor-stretching big whose opponents know that they can't take their eye off him. Any team vying for a title would gladly seize the opportunity to add him, knowing what he brings and how cheap his price would be. So, with all that laid out, would he interest the Celtics?
Hard to see why he wouldn't since he has for almost a decade. The Celtics' interest in him dates all the way back to 2015 when Steve Bulpett reported that the Boston Celtics discussed acquiring him from the Nuggets. They tried multiple times to get him from then on until they finally reeled him in in 2022. But we all know what happened after that. Despite everything that happened during the 2023 offseason, the Celtics reportedly have some interest in a reunion, per NBC Sports Kurt Helin. The better question is, is the feeling mutual?
Following his trade to the Wizards, it sounded like there were some sour grapes on Gallo's end, and why wouldn't there be? He took less money to come to the Cs. He looked like he got himself in terrific shape before he tore his ACL. Gallinari himself told MassLive's Garrett Cote that he didn't expect a trade following a meeting with Celtics brass that convinced him he wasn't going anywhere days before he was shipped off to Washington. And, of course, there was the clip of him saying he marked his upcoming games against the Cs (in his native language).
On the surface, that sounds like he left Boston on bad terms. But a few months later, he raved about his time with the Celtics despite never being able to play for them to The Athletic's Jay King while also adding his understanding of the trade because the NBA is a business. So, maybe Gallinari wouldn't be so opposed to coming back to Boston if they came calling for him. However, there's something else at play here that works against Boston's Gallinari pursuit.
Boston Celtics have one clear disadvantage in pursuit of Danilo Gallinari
Danilo Gallinari is one of the best players on the buyout market for the Celtics to look into. Gallo gives them shooting with size and at a discounted price, no less. However, with his skill set and his impending market, he'll likely want to play for a team that will promise him playing time. The cold, hard facts about Gallinari are that he's on the wrong side of 30, has torn the same ACL twice, and wants to prove he still belongs in the NBA. If he re-joins the Celtics, he may not be able to prove that.
Gallinari would be an excellent depth piece to have in the Celtics' arsenal in case they deal with injuries. At the same time, he probably wants to play for a team that won't see him as a "break glass in case of emergency"-type of player. He would precisely be just that in Boston, knowing their current roster makeup. The Celtics confronted their frontcourt depth issues when they acquired Xavier Tillman. From the looks of things, Tillman's not going to be a benchwarmer. He brings defensive versatility and toughness that the Celtics didn't necessarily lack before but will make them tougher to score on.
Add him to the mix with Luke Kornet, who's surprisingly thrived in an expanded role as the Celtics' third big, and Gallinari would potentially be on the outside looking in of the Boston Celtics' frontcourt rotation. The Celtics' biggest appeal to Gallinari, or anyone who hits the buyout market for that matter, is that they offer the chance to win the title. But with the rock-solid rotation they have now, that sadly comes with the caveat of spending most of the time watching from the sidelines.
Compare that to teams like the Phoenix Suns. They can also offer Gallinari the opportunity to join a team aspiring for a championship (even if their chances don't look as good as Boston's), but by contrast, can also offer a spot in their rotation since they're more desperate for help than Boston is at the moment.
In fact, the reason why there's been an uproar for the Celtics to bring back Danilo Gallinari following his waiving is not so much about what he can do but how, in a way, how poetic his return would be. He grew up a Boston Celtics fan, couldn't wait to play for them, injured himself before he got the chance, and then got traded to one of the worst teams in the NBA. It feels like bringing him back would be a great redemption story between Gallo and the Celtics.
However, at the end of the day, do the Celtics really need Gallinari? No. If they added him, would he change the trajectory of their season? Not really. But would it be nice to have him around knowing his history with the team? Absolutely. Everything, in this case, depends on what Gallinari values the most at this stage of his career. In the next few days, he gets to choose his own destiny. While re-joining the Celtics would make for a nice story, no one would blame him if he passed on that for greener pastures that could keep his NBA career alive for longer.