A great place to play basketball. That’s how Danilo Gallinari remembers playing in New York City.
On the floor at Madison Square Garden, Gallinari blossomed as a professional while adjusting to a new country, culture, and language, forming some of the strongest bonds of his career in New York, including his relationship with teammate Wilson Chandler.
“It’s great to play with him again,” Gallinari said. “To have him on our team is going to bring a lot of I.Q. offensively and defensively.”
After spending nine years together playing for the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, the two were reunited when the Clippers acquired Chandler on Feb. 6 in the trade that sent Tobias Harris to Philadelphia. The deal was one of three in a flurry of moves that reshuffled the Clippers’ roster at the NBA trade deadline.
Dealing with a new group of players after the deadline “is a challenge for everyone” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, especially in the midst of a playoff race. With a record of 33-27, the Clippers occupy the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but maintain a slim two-game margin over the Sacramento Kings.
“It’s a playoff push for us, so every game right now counts,” Gallinari said.
A crisp 20 points from Gallinari helped preserve that lead last Wednesday after the Clippers defeated the struggling Phoenix Suns 134-107, even in the absence of the newly acquired Chandler. The 31-year-old forward had been sidelined prior to his arrival in Los Angeles after sustaining a quadriceps injury against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 1.
Rivers is optimistic about Chandler’s impact when he returns. Gallinari and Chandler both enjoyed career-highs in points while sharing the court in Denver, which is why Rivers said he is hopeful the pair will tap into the chemistry that made them so effective as Nuggets.
“I know if you put those two together, that can’t hurt you,” Rivers said. “They have years together, so I know that should help us.”