LOS ANGELES - When the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a multiple-player trade that sent Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers last February 6, the general assumption was the team would fall out of playoffs contention.
Surprisingly though, the Clips didn't just thrive since losing Harris - as well as Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott in the multi-team swap - they've actually gotten better record-wise.
On the day of the trade, the Clips were 30-25. Since then, they are 40-30 and have only lost five of their last 15 games.
Since Harris' departure, Lou Williams has taken over as the leading scorer with a 20.4-point per game average off the bench, while Montrezl Harrell is adding 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds a contest also in a reserve role.
But the force that has greatly helped stabilize the challenging transition under head coach Doc Rivers is an underappreciated veteran who is getting things done on both ends of the floor - Danilo Gallinari.
Nicknamed Gallo, which is Italian for rooster, Gallinari is averaging 19.4 points, six rebounds and 2.4 assists per in 58 games. It's a marked improvement from the 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and two assists per he averaged in 539 career games.
The 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward was taken by the New York Knicks as their No. 6 pick in the 2008 NBA draft. Prior to entering the NBA, Galllinari, now 30, toiled for Olimpia Milano in the Euro League. His father, Vittoro Gallinari also played for Olimpia Milano in the Italian League where he teamed up with Mike D'Antoni, currently the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
A former Armani model, Gallinari is shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from long distance this season.
Thanks to Gallinari's efforts, the Clippers are in a great place right now, sitting eighth place in the Western Conference and trailing the Utah Jazz by a mere half-game for seventh place. The Clips lead ninth place Sacramento Kings by a comfortable six games with 13 games left in the regular season schedule.
Meet Gallo : The Clippers' secret weapon