OT: Belinelli wanted to remain a Bull

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN ANTONIO -- Marco Belinelli may be playing in San Antonio this season but a piece of his heart remains with the Chicago Bulls. He made that clear before Wednesday's game against his former team.

"I was almost sure, 100 percent, that Chicago was [going to] offer me good money, good [years]," Belinelli said. "But the NBA is a business. I got a little bit of offers from other teams and when San Antonio called me I didn't think too much, honestly. Having a team that really wanted to win a championship and I can really improve my game, so I think I [made] a really good decision to come here and try to be a better player. Play with great players that know how to win championship and a great coach like Pop."

Belinelli said he spoke to the Bulls about coming back but no offer was actually made. Instead of bringing Belinelli back, the Bulls decided to sign veteran guard Mike Dunleavy because they believed he was a better fit playing alongside Derrick Rose. Specifically, they thought Dunleavy's ability to shoot 3-pointers would be key. The irony is that Belinelli came into Wednesday's game shooting 46.7 percent from the 3-point line.

"Maybe they were thinking about another player, like Dunleavy," Belinelli said. "I don't really know. It's a business. You never know 100 percent. I was happy to stay with Chicago this summer, but at the end of the day I'm on a better team, a great team. I feel really good right now, I'm so happy."

Belinelli laughed when asked whether playing for coach Tom Thibodeau last season helped prepare him for playing for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He answered "yes" before the question was even finished being asked.

For their part, both coaches sung Belinelli's praises before the game.

"I thought he did well in Chicago," Popovich said. "I watched him play there and I thought he got involved in a lot of different ways: pick and rolls and obviously [he's] a good shooter. I think he's a really fine all-around player. He's a very good passer, a great teammate, and I think he plays to win. He's got no fear at all, so I think he's been a really good addition for us."

Thibodeau never had a doubt Belinelli would succeed in Popovich's system.

"We hated to lose him," Thibodeau said. "I think anyone that's serious about basketball and serious about winning, they're going to thrive with Pop, they are. The game is so important to Marco. He plays for the team, he plays to win, and when I heard he signed here I knew he would be a great fit."

Belinelli has enjoyed his time in both places. He admitted he gained confidence in his defense by playing for Thibodeau.

"I think they are great coaches," he said. "Thibs was great with me. Pop is great. But I've got a really good relationship with them. We can speak about everything. I was [anxious] a little bit this summer because I didn't know much about Pop, but I know right now he's a great coach and I think he's a great person."

What's next: The Bulls have an off day Thursday in New Orleans. They will find out whether Joakim Noah makes his second straight All-Star team or not.

The last word: Thibodeau, on Noah being able to play well after not feeling well during Wednesday morning's shootaround.

"He's fine now," he said. "You guys all know -- he's not a morning person."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5