How Danilo Gallinari's meniscus injury impacts Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Boston Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn meniscus while competing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier on Saturday. So what does it mean for the Celtics a month before training camp opens for the 2022-23 season?
While not an ideal situation for a team that made adding depth a priority after falling short in the NBA Finals, the absence of ligament damage could limit the amount of time that Gallinari misses due to the injury.
Imaging should help Gallinari decide his best path forward. Robert Williams tore his meniscus late in the 2021-22 season and elected to undergo a surgical trim, which allowed him to return to playoff action less a month later. If the 34-year-old Gallinari elects to repair the meniscus, it would lead to a much lengthier recovery and put much of this season in jeopardy.
The Celtics were excited about their depth after adding both Gallinari and Malcolm Brogdon to the returning core this offseason. Boston is thin at the big-man position, where Williams’ injury history and Al Horford’s age (36) could have opened a pathway for Gallinari to play a healthy share of minutes at both the 4 and 5 spot off the bench.
If Gallinari misses time, Boston will likely lean heavier on small-ball lineups, utilizing Grant Williams as an undersized center or maybe even shuffling Jayson Tatum to that spot at times when the team can otherwise add size and versatility to the floor. The addition of Brogdon could allow coach Ime Udoka to get creative in deploying lineups with versatility, even if short on pure size.
If Gallinari misses time early in the season, it could open a pathway for second-year forward Sam Hauser to see time after signing with the parent roster this summer. The 6-foot-7 Hauser can offer some of the perimeter shooting lost in Gallinari’s absence, though he needs to prove he can consistently defend at the NBA level and offer something more than just shooting on the offensive side.
Behind the Williamses and Horford, Boston will bring to camp a collection of lesser-experienced big men, including Luke Kornet and former first-round picks Mfiondu Kabengele, Noah Vonleh, and Bruno Caboclo.
Ultimately, situations like this are why the Celtics yearned for depth. The team will cross its fingers that Gallinari can get back and ramp himself up during the season, but there will be an opportunity for younger players to state their case to be part of the rotation when Boston is closer to full health.
The Celtics could ponder an external addition -- particularly if Gallinari’s absence is extended -- but already are deep into the tax, meaning every dollar spent is multiplied depending on Boston’s total spend.
The team should give current roster options every chance to hold the fort before exploring outside candidates. Boston does have a collection of traded player exceptions to spend beyond a minimum contract, but again, given the cost, it would seem unlikely to utilize those unless Gallinari’s absence is extended and creates a glaring hole at his position.