Sometimes a guy just needs a chance.
For Luigi “Gigi” Datome, that chance came on February 19, 2015 when the Detroit Pistons shipped him up to Boston in a package deal for Tayshaun Prince. Now, in a new city with a new role, Datome has quickly approached folk-hero status out east.
Per NESN’s Zach Cox:
The most raucous cheers on this night were reserved for the one and only Luigi Datome, the Celtics’ own version of the most interesting man in the world.
Datome — “Gigi” as he’s commonly known — has morphed from post-deadline buyout candidate to borderline cult hero — all in the span of less than a month. He sports an unmistakable beard-and-ponytail combo and a number (70) usually reserved for offensive lineman. He sips coffee before games and he shows up to postgame media scrums in socks.
Cox then shared this pricelss exchange between Datome and teammate Tyler Zeller:
Before the game, Zeller asked Gigi what he does in his free time. Gigi said he reads. Zeller asked what. "Books," Gigi explained.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) March 17, 2015
Of course, Datome’s idiosyncrasies alone wouldn’t make his standing in Boston much different than his time in Detroit. But with Gigi’s new digs has come new opportunity, and he’s responded. After scoring just 98 points in two seasons with the Pistons, Datome has tallied more than half that total in just eight games with the Celtics. His three double figure performances for Boston has already surpassed his efforts in Detroit.
“I was thinking about it,” Datome said. “Like, I never get so many games in a row with real minutes when the games counted. I was ready for that. My goal when I came here in the league was to show them that I can belong at this level. I’m really happy that the coach and the team are giving me this opportunity, and my teammates are just fantastic at finding me out there.”
The formerly dead in the water Celtics have won five of their last six games and now stand at 10-6 since the all-star break, leaving themselves in a two-way tie for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Datome’s acquisition, alongside that of Jonas Jerebko (another former Piston) and ex-Suns guard Isaiah Thomas has revitalized an organization that previously appeared to be focused only on stockpiling an endless supply of draft picks.
For Datome, Boston has provided an opportunity he won’t soon take for granted.
“You can’t understand,” Datome said. “(After) maybe 50 games in Detroit of being inactive, DNP, I was saying after the game I will never take it for granted again, playing basketball.”