DENVER -- The Nuggets have been billing themselves as a team without a bona fide star.
That assertion is getting harder and harder to make, especially given the way 23-year-old Danilo Gallinari has been playing this season.
Denver signed the smooth-shooting Gallinari to a four-year extension on Wednesday, worth $42 million.
The deal represents a big step for the Nuggets and their versatile Italian forward, who came over from the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade last February.
The Nuggets have moved on from Melo. Now, it's Gallo's time.
Gallinari is averaging career bests in points (17.4), assists (2.8) and steals (1.7) this season. He outplayed Anthony in the first meeting since they were swapped in the blockbuster trade, scoring a career-high 37 points as the Nuggets outlasted the Knicks 119-114 in double overtime on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
"Gallo has been excellent and done everything we have asked since we made the trade," said Masai Ujiri, the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Nuggets. "Everybody is seeing how talented he is, and he's only 23 years old. He is only going to get better."
Later in the day, the team signed center
Kosta Koufos to a three-year contract extension worth $9 million, league sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
The Nuggets (12-5) own a better record than every team in the Western Conference except Oklahoma City (14-3). Even more, they are 30-12 since reshaping their roster with the Anthony trade. This is a team that relies on a deep rotation, and fields a lineup that lacks a household name.
"I am first concerned with helping my team win (games),"
Gallinari said. "But right now, I don't think I am playing at the level of a superstar yet. There is still a lot of work to do."
The Nuggets have been opening up their wallets quite a bit lately, signing center Nene to a five-year, $67 million contract just before the season began and then team leader Arron Afflalo to a five-year deal worth up to $43 million.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.