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Nuggets

Gallinari Could Return Sooner Than Expected

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Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball up the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA game on March 19, 2013 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball up the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA game on March 19, 2013 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) – Danilo Gallinari’s knee surgery wasn’t as complex as anticipated, so he could return to the Denver Nuggets sooner than expected.

Gallinari tore his left ACL in a game against Dallas on April 4 and was expected to miss at least half of next season. He underwent surgery this week at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, where he was operated on by noted surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman.

Team spokesman Tim Gelt forwarded a statement from the clinic to The Associated Press on Friday night that read: “Danilo Gallinari had an arthroscopic procedure to promote healing of his ACL tear, which was found to be partially torn at the time of surgery. Dr. Steadman has performed over 2,000 of these procedures. We are hopeful that Danilo will return to basketball sooner than if he had a complete ACL reconstruction.”

Gallinari also posted a video Friday on his official Facebook page in which he delivered the good news, saying in Italian that his recovery time will be “completely different” that previously expected.

Neither Gallinari nor his surgeon, however, revealed a new timetable for his return to the hardwood.

The Nuggets were planning on being without their 24-year-old forward at least until February.

That timetable, in fact, played a role in coach George Karl’s firing, according to team President Josh Kroenke, who cited Gallinari’s injury last week in explaining his reasoning for pink-slipping the NBA’s Coach of Year.

Karl had one year left on his contract and wanted an extension that Kroenke wasn’t prepared to give him. So, with Gallinari expected to miss the first half of the season, at the very least, Kroenke reasoned there was a strong possibility the Nuggets could get off to a slow start in 2013-14, which would have put Karl in an untenable position as a lame duck coach.

So, Kroenke said he fired Karl rather than allow for that possibility.

Karl has said in recent days he didn’t comprehend the reason for his firing.

Karl’s dismissal came less than a week after Masai Ujiri, the league’s Executive of the Year, left the Nuggets to take over as GM of the Toronto Raptors.

The Nuggets’ best defender, Andre Iguodala, is expected to opt out of his $16 million contract for next season and test free agency this summer, which could further redefine a Nuggets team that won a franchise-most 57 games during the regular season only to flop in the first round again.

Former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is expected to interview for the Nuggets’ vacant head coaching job this weekend. Kroenke has said he’s in no hurry to hire a coach or GM.

Acquired from the New York Knicks in the blockbuster trade of Carmelo Anthony in 2011, Gallinari was in the midst of a breakout season when he got hurt. He averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 71 games. The Nuggets sorely missed their second-leading scorer and their best free throw shooter in their first-round playoff loss to Golden State.

Gallinari got hurt when he planted his left leg awkwardly while going for a layup against the Mavericks at the Pepsi Center on April 4. The following day, the Nuggets said an MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But surgery was delayed to allow the swelling to subside, then again as he underwent a less invasive procedure.

By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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