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Gallinari’s Fight in an International Friendly Was Costly

The forward has a fractured hand, getting the new-look Clippers off to a rocky start

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

They say nothing in this world is certain besides death, taxes, and the Clippers clipping.

Danilo Gallinari has been a member of the Clippers for barely three weeks, and he’s already fallen victim to the seemingly curse-stricken franchise’s grip. Gallinari’s misfortune isn’t a product of a questionable coaching or front-office decision, though. He’s falling victim to his own questionable actions. See, when the Clippers were informed that Gallinari would be playing for Italy in games leading up to EuroBasket this summer, they probably knew injury was a possibility. But even a franchise with recent experience in punch-related incidents probably didn’t imagine Gallinari would hurt himself punching an opponent in a post-free-throw scuffle during an international friendly.

That’s exactly what he did Sunday night, though. Here’s the video in its full glory (or shame):

Jito Kok from the Netherlands hits Gallinari first with his forearm while trying to box him out for the rebound. Whether or not he did it on purpose, Gallinari reminds us of an ever-important lesson: The person who starts the fight almost never gets caught. Gallinari first approaches with what seems to be a combination of a forearm push and attempted head grab. We can just refer to it as the flailing-arms move. But Kok is so ready. Look at him.

As Kok picks up the ball after the made free-throw, he immediately drops it and glances over his shoulder. He knows what’s coming. As Gallinari comes after him, Kok pushes him off, but he leaves his face open for Gallinari’s quick right arm. They get separated, but not before staring longingly at each other with tough guy faces. This tension was likely building up from before this play, and it seemed like they both wanted to fight, which makes it even dumber.

Gallinari, after landing a solid punch, ended up at a local hospital. According to ESPN, the damage was a thumb injury that won’t require surgery, and Gallinari should be healthy by the start of the NBA season. But talk about a setback. The Clippers just handed Gallinari $65 million over three years, and the 28-year-old will undoubtedly be a big part of the L.A.’s quest to stay competitive despite losing Chris Paul. The ROI is not looking good early on.

Gallinari hasn’t exactly enjoyed perfect health in his nine seasons in the league. He missed out on the 2013–14 season altogether after suffering a torn ACL, and has played more than 70 games in a season only twice, with the last time coming in 2012–13. Being injury prone should preclude you from punching people in a game, not encourage it. Gallinari is coming off a relatively healthy 63-game campaign when he shot and made a higher percentage of 3s than any other season when he played more than 30 games and posted his best shooting percentage from the field since his rookie season in 2008–09. For Gallinari, health isn’t only a benefit, it’s the key to his success.

As an aside: What is it with the Clippers and punching people? Two seasons ago, Blake Griffin hurt his hand during the season by punching a team equipment manager outside a restaurant in Toronto. Griffin ended up playing only 35 games that season. He was never himself after the punch, and the Clippers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Portland. And though it seems the Clippers may not lose much given Gallinari’s return timetable, Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday morning that team specialists are going to further examine Gallinari to see the true extent of the damage.

As Danny Chau outlined here, punching mates Griffin and Gallinari have the potential to be a seamless fit and a deadly passing combo on the court, especially in a new, revamped Clippers offense. But the question of health was always up in the air, given both of their histories with injuries, and now it’s quickly become a problem before the first ball has been tipped.

We’re still months away from the season, and one forward is already down and out for now. Let’s make sure we all remember: Punching anyone or anything will always go poorly, so don’t do it. Capisce?