Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari both grew up surrounded by Boston Celtics fandom.
As a kid in Italy, Gallinari was an admirer of Larry Bird. And when was drafted by the New York Knicks in 2008, he remembers being given a disc containing the Hall of Famer’s highlights by then-general manager Donnie Walsh.
He watched it daily, trying to pick up any element he could from Bird’s game.
“Of course, Larry Bird is a legend, so it’s not easy to do the stuff that he was doing,” Gallinari said Tuesday. “But I would look at those tapes every day.”
Brogdon, too, remembers being inundated with tales of the green and white by his late grandfather, a diehard devotee of Bill Russell and Red Auerbach.
Now years later, and after multiple stops around the league, Gallinari and Brogdon — Boston’s top two offseason additions — are being called upon to help this latest incarnation of the Celtics return to the championship status that eluded them this past season with their loss in the Finals to Golden State.
“When the Celtics came on the table it was almost like a no-brainer,” Gallinari said. “You look around and see what’s going on — the banners, the history and everything that the Celtics are about — it was an easy choice.”
The veterans also know what it’s like to be close to reaching the NBA’s championship summit.
Brogdon was drafted by Milwaukee and spent his first three years there before being traded two years ahead of the Bucks ultimately winning the title in 2021.
Gallinari bounced around on five different teams before helping Atlanta make a surprise Eastern Conference finals run in 2021 before falling to Milwaukee.
Those outcomes were a reminder to both of just how precious seizing the moment is in the NBA. They don’t want to see that happen to this Celtics core they are joining.
Brogdon, who was traded from Indiana hours after the start of free agency, called the move “perfect timing.”
“For me, I’m in my prime. I’m 29 years old,” he said. “I experienced winning at a high level in Milwaukee my first three years. I went to Indiana, had a solid season and then sort of two rough seasons. So this is everything I’ve wanted, to be able to get back to this level. To be able to compete with guys that want to win a championship and guys that want to sacrifice to win.”
That includes Brogdon himself, who led Indiana in scoring last season with 19.1 points, along with 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He said he is more than willing to accept an understudy role to Celtics starting point guard Marcus Smart.
As good as Smart — the reigning Defensive Player of Year — was this season, it was clear at times during Boston’s postseason run that it was missing a traditional playmaking point guard.
It was one of the things Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens pinpointed as being a target during free agency. That and finding help for a bench that was missing consistent scoring without disrupting its core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart.
The Celtics had to give up reserve center Daniel Theis in the trade for Brogdon and Stevens said they may look to add another big to replace him, though it's not a necessity with the 6-10 Gallinari and 6-5 Brogdon able to play multiple positions.
“I want to come in here and I want to add — my skillset, my playmaking, my ability to play off the ball when guys like Brown and Tatum have the ball,” Brogdon said. “And my ability to be able to read the game, to be able to close games, make good decisions and defend really one through four can be an asset to this team.”
Gallinari, who turns 34 this upcoming season, said taking a reserve role the past two seasons in Atlanta has helped him dive headfirst into a phase in his career in which he isn’t the centerpiece.
That’s just fine by him if it means competing for a championship again.
“At that point in my career it was a move I decided to accept," Gallinari said. "It’s something that you’ve got to adjust and you’ve got to be a pro. And whatever's got to be done, you’ve got to do it.”