The Nuggets are thinking about sitting Danilo Gallinari for the rest of the season even if he returns to health with a few games left on the schedule, coach Michael Malone acknowledged to reporters, including Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The 27-year-old small forward suffered two torn ligaments in his right ankle during Friday’s game that are expected to sideline him for a month, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday, the same day that The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported the team would sign D-League small forward Axel Toupane to a 10-day contract.
Only five games are on the schedule for the Nuggets in April, as Dempsey points out, raising the question of whether it would be wise to put the team’s veteran centerpiece back on the court and risk additional injury with only a few games left to go.
“I’ve already thought about that. I don’t have an answer,” Malone said. “I think it’s a very good question. At that point, depending on where we are, it’s going to depend on four games to go, what is the picture? Are we 15 games out of the playoffs? Well, it probably makes sense to play some of our younger guys and let them get minutes and see what they can do. But we’ll see.”
Denver is six games behind the Rockets, who hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Malone said the team would consult Gallinari to see whether he wants to return to action, adding that the Michael Tellem client had earned the right to have input with his performance this season. The eighth-year veteran is in the midst of his best year in the NBA, averaging 19.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 34.7 minutes per game, all career highs.
The Nuggets couldn’t get a disabled player exception, even if Gallinari becomes likely to miss the rest of the season, and while Wilson Chandler and Jameer Nelson are also sidelined, Denver still falls short of the four long-term injuries needed to qualify for an extra roster spot via hardship. The team already spent the disabled player exception it reaped from Chandler’s season-ending injury in the deadline-day trade with the Thunder. Nelson hasn’t played since January 30th because of a severely sprained left wrist, though he was available for Wednesday’s game, Dempsey notes. Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay did play Wednesday despite minor ailments.
Gallinari is signed through next season with a player option for 2017/18, thanks to a rare renegotiation and extension deal that he and the team pulled off this past summer. The Nuggets reportedly turned away interest that the Celtics had in trading for him before last month’s deadline.