On Friday, in his final opportunity to correct himself before the regular season begins next week, Belinelli displayed that one skill that made him an attractive offseason asset for the Bulls to pursue.
In the Bulls’ 97-90 win over the Indiana Pacers at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, Belinelli connected on his first 3-pointer of the preseason and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“I don’t think he’s been playing poorly,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He hasn’t shot well so far, but we know he will. He’s already proven that. I think he’s made several good plays off the dribble for us. Defensively, he’s improved each day. He still has a long way to go. He has to be confident in his ability to play well on the nights he doesn’t shoot the ball well, and I think he can.”
Belinelli somewhat agreed with Thibodeau. While Belinelli felt he was contributing in small ways, he was frustrated he wasn’t giving the Bulls more in terms of his shooting and scoring. He’s averaged 8.9 points and made 369 3-pointers in his past five years, and he expected the same this season.
“I was really pissed off, especially when a shooter can’t score the ball,” said Belinelli, who entered Friday’s game 0 for 7 from 3-point range in the preseason. “It’s terrible. At same time, I tried to be positive, work a lot on my shot, be ready to score the ball. I think the last couple games I didn’t play well. Tonight, I was thinking about my shot to start this game and be more aggressive. I think tonight was really good. I want to be good for the season.”
Belinelli not only was looking to be aggressive on Friday; he was also forced to be that way. In the second quarter after having already missed a 3-pointer, Belinelli found himself with the ball beyond the 3-point line on the right side with the clock winding down. As soon as Belinelli saw the 24-second clock, he didn’t hesitate and shot a leaning 3-pointer with a defender in his face and the ball fell through the net. In a season where he’s expected to hit a number of easy 3-pointers, Friday’s make may be one of the more difficult he’ll connect on this season.
“That was crazy,” Belinelli said. “That was crazy. … It was one second on the clock. I just took the ball and shot the ball. That’s why I scored. I didn’t think too much about that. Now I’m thinking it’s time to be a better player and not think too much.”
According to Bulls point guard Nate Robinson, Belinelli just needs to possess the Peter Pan mentality.
"I told him it's going to be big for him, but we know he can score, it's just a matter of time,” Robinson said. “I've seen Marco go four or five 3s in a row, get to the free-throw line, drive left to right, finish left. He's a hell of a player. But on top of that, his confidence, I told him don't ever lose that, you'll be OK. I always tell people my Peter Pan theory: You can't play without happy thoughts. You got to be happy to be able to fly, so I just told him you got to think happy thoughts. Be like that kid in the playground by yourself, you're just happy and playing and hoopin'. You just got to go back to that."