The veteran forward has been rehabbing diligently from a torn ACL suffered last summer while playing for Italy in the EuroCup. Gallinari has progressed to some play on the floor in recent weeks but still has not played in any live action.
“Playoffs is still in my head, so that’s something that I’m looking for to it,” Gallinari said of the possibility of playing this season. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but on a motivation standpoint, it’s always something that motivates me more. But I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.”
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Gallinari has been pleased with how the rehab process has gone in Boston as a whole so far despite the challenges of watching from the sidelines.
“It’s been good, he said. “On pace what the protocol and the schedule was thought and said at the beginning of the rehab. So everything is going well. Still a long way, but it’s going well.”
The 34-year-old is still weeks away from taking part in any 3-on-3 action as part of his ramp up but the goal in the meantime is checking off the many boxes throughout the rehab.
“A lot of steps that need to be done before you play an actual game,” Gallinari explained. “And even maybe after all those steps, you are not ready for a playoff game because when you don’t play the whole season and then be ready to play a playoff game is not easy for anybody, not just body-wise but mentally-wise. But like I said, it might happen. So we’ll see.”
The Celtics added some shooting insurance in big man Mike Muscala at the trade deadline in the likely scenario that Gallinari is not able to return until next season.
In the meantime, the seasoned forward is doing his best from the bench to lend a hand to his teammates and help them gear up for the postseason.
“Just by staying with them in practice and being able to follow the meetings and following the team closer,” he said. “Being on the bench and seeing what the coaches want, what the players are able to do, the game plans and everything. So just during the game talking to players and coaches about the game plan and stuff that I see that they could individually do better.”
No matter what happens this year, Gallinari is intent on playing far longer than 2024 so he’s not going to push too hard in the present and potentially risk his career for the future.
“Of course at this stage maybe you want to push a little more,” Gallinari said. “But at the same time, yes, I’m older, but I’m far from being done with basketball. So you don’t want to risk it too much, because you’re not that young, but you still have some years to play. So you just want to do it the best way, just listening to your knee, and whatever the knee is telling you, that’s the path you’ve got to follow and the things you’ve got to do day by day.”