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Gallinari fired up about playing World Cup games in China
ROME (Italy) - Danilo Gallinari has turned his full attention to the summer and the excitement of playing in a FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time in his career.
The NBA star, who averaged almost 20 points per contest in 68 games with the Los Angeles Clippers this season, says China 2019 represents is a huge opportunity for both the players and all supporters of Italian basketball.
"It’s huge that the national team gets back to playing against the very best from all over the world," Gallinari said to Corriere dello Sport.
"We want to do great, and this hasn’t changed since we started wearing the Azzurri jersey. It won’t sound new to anyone, but every athlete dreams and will forever dream about playing for his or her country."
Gallinari and the other Italian players have taken their first step toward China by getting their physicals in Rome.
Gallinari last played for Italy in the build-up to FIBA EuroBasket 2017. An injury suffered during the preparations prevented him from taking part in the tournament.
Before that, Gallinari played for the Azzurri at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin.
At the World Cup, Italy will play in Group D with Serbia, Angola and the Philippines. A top two finish would put them in Second Round Group J against the teams that come in first and second in a Group C which consists of Spain, Iran, Tunisia and Puerto Rico. The countries that claim that top two spots in that Second Round group will advance to the Quarter-Finals.
"We can’t make promises now," Gallinari said. "We’re still months away, we’ll see when it’s time to go on the court, how competitive we can be against our opponents. To advance after the (initial) group phase is a must for us and for Serbia, since two teams qualify, but we will need to stay focused every game. We have to respect Philippines and Angola, too."
“IT’S HUGE THAT THE NATIONAL TEAM GETS BACK TO PLAYING AGAINST THE VERY BEST FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.”
Italy haven't played at a FIBA Basketball World Cup since 2006, in Japan, where they advanced from the Preliminary Round before falling to Lithuania in a Round of 16 thriller, 71-68.
Their last medal in international competition was the silver claimed at the 2004 Olympics.