International Notes: Gallinari, Melli, Sabonis, Belinelli

Danilo Gallinari played his first game with the Italian national team since suffering an ACL tear two years ago, writes Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. The 35-year-old forward was named MVP of the Trentino Basketball Cup after scoring 13 points in a win over Georgia, the team he was facing when he injured his knee.

“It’s a special return for me, especially after what happened two years ago, against the same team. It’s beautiful to come back on the court with these guys,” Gallinari said. “Playing next to these people it’s always a peculiar emotion. It seems like a cliché, but it’s always the same emotion as when I started with the national team at 17-18. Always the same beautiful emotions that everybody expects every summer to get back to it. Unfortunately, I had to wait two years, but it’s great.”

The injury occurred just weeks after Gallinari signed a two-year deal with the Celtics, and it changed the course of his NBA career. Instead of getting a chance to compete for a championship in Boston, Gallinari had to sit out the entire 2022/23 season. He was traded to Washington last summer and then to Detroit in January before being waived by the Pistons a month later and finishing the season with Milwaukee.

Before he tests the free agent market again, Gallinari will take part in an Olympic qualifying tournament from July 2-7 in Puerto Rico. Italy, Bahrain and the host team are in Group B, with Lithuania, Mexico and Ivory Coast making up Group A.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Another member of the Italian team, former NBA big man Nicolo Melli, has signed a two-year contract with Fenerbahce, according to Bugra Uzar of Eurohoops. During his previous time with Fenerbahce, Melli was part of teams that captured the 2018 Turkish League title, the 2017 President Cup and the 2019 Turkish Cup. Melli recently parted ways with Olimpia Milano in Italy, saying he wasn’t part of coach Ettore Messina‘s plans for next season. “I wasn’t thinking about leaving Milan,” Melli said. “I accept the legitimate decision by the club. I feel bad that it’s being written and said that I was the one to leave Milan.”
  • Kings center Domantas Sabonis will be part of the Lithuanian squad at the OQT in Puerto Rico, per Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. With Jonas Valanciunas skipping the tournament because of his upcoming free agency, Sabonis will be Lithuania’s only active NBA player.
  • Marco Belinelli has reached an agreement in principle for a new contract with Virtus Bologna at age 38, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. The veteran swingman played 13 NBA seasons before returning to Europe in 2020.
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