Danilo Gallinari’s first season in Los Angeles was notable for what he missed.
The Clippers forward’s second, so far, has been defined by how little he’s missed – when it comes to being in the lineup, and shooting beyond the three-point line, too.
Gallinari has shaken the injury bug that has followed every stop of his career to play in 32 of the Clippers’ 33 games and made 47.3% of his three-pointers entering Wednesday’s game against Sacramento. That represents not only his personal best from behind the arc at this point in any of his 10 seasons, but one of the best seasons by any shooter in coach Doc Rivers’ five seasons with the Clippers. Only J.J. Redick (47.5%) has posted a better shooting percentage for an entire season.
Against Golden State on Sunday, Gallinari made all five three-pointers he took.
“My teammates are finding me at the right time and setting the screens at the right time,” Gallinari said. “A lot of things come into place for the three-point shot but it’s a mix of a lot of things.”
Gallinari’s game has always featured a steady offering of three-pointers. He was averaging six a game by his second NBA season, in 2009-10, and has averaged more than 4.3 a game in his eight seasons since. He’s shooting as many this season (5.3) as he did last year but the difference is how often he’s converted those tries into points. Just last season, he shot 32.4% on threes (though his abbreviated, 21-game season included injuries that affected his hand).
“He looks very comfortable right now, unfortunately,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said before tipoff.
Even in a league where three-shooting big men has become the norm, Gallinari is notably difficult to guard playing both the four and five positions because the Clippers run him through the same actions it might typically use to get a guard open. It’s common to see Gallinari curling around a screen on the low block for an open-midrange jump shot.
“It’s a tough situation to guard because those situations are usually made for guards or for the three, but not for the fours,” Gallinari said.
The Clippers run such actions because they don’t believe many teams practice defending it with a power forward in mind. Being able to play off of another good-shooting forward in Tobias Harris has also helped deflect the attention paid to him by opposing defenses.
“I think this offense fits him,” coach Doc Rivers said.
Gallinari didn’t know his shooting percentage and prefers not to but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like his shooting to be recognized.
“I want to be part of the three-point contest” during All-Star weekend, he said. It would be the second time he’s been part of the three-point competition.
“We’re all cheering for him just to stay healthy,” Joerger said. “He’s had a terrific season and I’m happy for him and I think most the league is happy for him.”
Motley moves to Clippers roster
Second-year forward Johnathan Motley was transferred from the Agua Caliente Clippers of the G League to the Clippers’ roster Wednesday, the second time in the last month he’s joined the NBA squad. He was not designated as active against Sacramento but Rivers expects to have him on the active roster later this week. The Clippers play the Lakers on Friday and San Antonio on Saturday.
Motley, who is on a two-way contract with the Clippers that allows up to 45 days with the team, has appeared in five games this season, averaging 5.4 points in 6.5 minutes. He’s averaged 35.7 minutes in 16 G League games and has averaged 26.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.8 turnovers a game while shooting 56.1% overall.
Hours after Motley was called up, rookie guard Jerome Robinson was assigned to the Agua Caliente Clippers in a move that appeared to be the first step in Robinson returning to the court after nursing an injured foot.
Team officials expected him to be ready to return to full game action soon after Christmas and the G League affords the opportunity to play again. He averaged 36.6 minutes in his first six G League games this season.
“He’s had a really uneven year because of all the injuries,” Rivers said. “Hopefully he can stay healthy and we can get a look at him.”