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The Denver Nuggets gambled on Danilo Gallinari’s recovery from an ACL tear, and lost

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Danilo Gallinari works out in a curious pair of shoes. (Getty Images)

As recoveries go, Danilo Gallinari’s surgery and rehabilitation following an ACL tear was a rather complicated thing. The Denver Nuggets swingman suffered an ACL tear last April 4th, but some two months after the injury he still had yet to undergo surgery to repair the ligament.

It turns out, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, that Danilo never underwent an ACL reconstruction repair. Instead it was determined that the forward would be able to heal from the tear naturally, and the Nuggets decided to “only” perform surgery on his torn meniscus nearly a month after his final game. Apparently that approach has failed both Gallinari and Nuggets, as it was reported today that he’ll be out for the rest of the 2013-14 season after failing to play a minute.

Declining to surgically repair a torn ACL is a rare approach, but it’s not without precedent. Former Portland Trail Blazers draft pick Qyntel Woods is still playing basketball overseas on a torn ACL he suffered in high school, and the former high flyer declined to undergo surgery to repair it. With the long time frame afforded by his late season tear, the Nuggets likely considered Danilo as good a candidate as any to avoid surgery and return midseason, but the move hasn’t worked out.

As a result, Gallinari could miss a healthy chunk of the first part of the 2014-15 season, killer news for a Nuggets team that will pay him over $10.1 million this season and $10.8 million during next year’s rehabilitation-clouded campaign. Gallo will only be 26 years of age heading into his comeback season, but he wasn’t exactly playing at an All-Star level prior to the injury, and it’s quite the impediment to be using 1/6th of a franchise’s salary cap room on a player that will miss an entire season before uneasily getting back into the groove of things at some point during the fall (we hope) of 2014.

The Nuggets are a good enough team to survive somewhat during Gallo’s absence, but when the franchise strangely chose to decide against rebuilding in the wake of general manager Masai Ujiri, coach George Karl and Andre Iguodala leaving the team over the summer, it left the squad prone to the whims of a tough Western Conference in Brian Shaw’s first year as head coach. Shaw has done well to open things up offensively and right the ship after an uneasy start, but the Nuggets remain wildly inconsistent – tossing out both seven and five-game winning streaks alongside an eight-game losing streak on their way to a .500 record after 40 games.

A .500 record won’t put you in the playoffs out West. Danilo Gallinari is not an All-Star, but the team was hoping his versatile presence would be enough to boost the Nuggets, who are currently three games out of the playoff bracket, and fighting improving teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves to catch up to the surprising Phoenix Suns for the eighth seed. The approach isn’t working, and it’s been compounded by the sad realization that we won’t see Danilo Gallinari working again until 2014-15.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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