Nearly seven months since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Boston Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari remains hopeful that he could return from the injury for the playoffs but acknowledged he still has a lot of work to do before that can happen.

The 34-year-old Gallinari – who signed a two-year contract with the Celtics last summer – tore the ACL on Aug. 27 while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier. A typical recovery timeline for a torn ACL can range from six to 12 months, and while a return this season seems unlikely, Gallinari doesn’t want to rule it out. The possibility has pushed him throughout his rehab.

“Playoffs is still in my head, so that’s something that I’m looking for,” Gallinari said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but on a motivation standpoint, it’s always something that motivates me more. But I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.”

Gallinari has been seen throughout the last couple of months doing light on-court workouts and has not begun ramping up to the point of playing in scrimmages. Even if Gallinari is cleared during the playoffs, he recognized it’s more complicated to return during that stage of the season.

“A lot of steps that need to be done before you play an actual game,” Gallinari said. “And even maybe after all those steps, you are not ready for a playoff game because when you don’t play the whole season and then be ready to play a playoff game is not easy for anybody, not just body-wise but mentally-wise. But like I said, it might happen. So we’ll see.”

Still, Gallinari is encouraged with his rehab. He hasn’t had any setbacks and said Thursday that his progress is on track with what was expected.


“Everything is going well,” Gallinari said. “Still a long way, but it’s going well.”

What boxes is he trying to check next?

“Get better results in the tests – the weight-room tests and the tests that we’ve been doing,” Gallinari said. “We’ve been doing different tests to see the differences between the two legs. So we’ve got to get better with that and once we get better with that, we can start ramping up a little bit more on the court.”

In the meantime, Gallinari is still trying to provide value while the Celtics prepare for the playoffs, which begin in less than a month. Gallinari has traveled with the team for most of the season and is offering his veteran guidance when and where it’s needed.

THE CELTICS will enter Friday in second place in the Eastern Conference. They’re 21/2 games behind the first-place Bucks and a half-game ahead of the 76ers, who they’re tied with in the loss column. All three have clinched playoff spots and are likely to hold the top three seeds in the East in some order.

The Celtics, who have road games against the Bucks and 76ers among their final nine games, don’t seem especially concerned about which seed they get.

“If we get the one seed, it’s cool. If we don’t, it’s the same,” Derrick White said. “We didn’t have (the No. 1 seed) last year, so we just want to keep playing the best basketball going into the playoffs, whether we are the No. 1, 2 or 3 (seed), it doesn’t matter.”

The Celtics were the No. 2 seed last season but won critical road games – including Game 6 at Milwaukee in the second round and Game 7 at Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. If they drop to the No. 3 seed this season, the 76ers and Bucks would both hold home-court advantage over them.

INJURY REPORT: Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla said Robert Williams “came out pretty well” following his return in Tuesday’s win at Sacramento after he missed eight games because of a left hamstring strain. Payton Pritchard, who hasn’t played since March 6 because of heel pain, did a live workout on Thursday and “felt a little bit better,” Mazzulla said. The coach expects Pritchard to return before the end of the regular season.

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