Belinelli starting to find his comfort zone

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Belinelli starting to find his comfort zone

DEERFIELD, ILL.Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was prophetic before his teams home loss Saturday night to New Orleans. Faced with a question about backup shooting guard Marco Belinelli, Thibodeau expressed his confidence in the free-agent acquisition ability, something the hard-driving coach consistently does with the media when asked about a players struggles.
Marcos getting better and better. I think more confident, more comfortable each day. Hes gotten better, more comfortable putting the ball on the floor, making plays for people, he said. I think his defense is coming around. Hes been around a long time. Im confident that hes going to play well.
Belinelli, playing against his old team, the Hornets, responded with his best game of the young season. The native of Bologna, Italy, notched 13 pointson 4-for-10 shooting, including 2-for-6 from three-point rangebut importantly, he played with confidence and like he was sure of himself, something the team needed with starter Rip Hamilton struggling.
Although the contest ended in the Bulls first defeat of the campaign, slowly, but surely, Belinelli is starting to resemble the player the organization expected when they signed him over the summer. A shooter, no doubt, but more than that, a player capable of creating his own shot, making plays for others and offering an offensive boost off the bench, while steadily improving as a defensive player.
Throughout most of the preseason, that player wasnt present, as Belinelli himself readily admitted, his transparency being a trait most professional athletes dont have when talking about their issues on the floor. But hes worked through it and starting with a seven-point in the Bulls preseason finale win over the Pacers in South Bend, Ind., Bellinelli has started to make more overt contributions to the teams success.
He scored six points, to go along with three assists, in the season-opening win over Sacramento, then put up eight points in Fridays blowout victory against Cleveland. But Saturday, while he wasnt perfectlike many of his teammates, Belinellis play tailed off a bit in the second half of the lossBelinelli played with a looseness, freedom and aggressiveness befitting of a six-year pro revered in his home country as one of the best basketball players in recent memory.
Even though we lost one against the Hornets, I played better than the two games before, but I was so mad because we lost that game. Its part of the game, Belinelli said after Mondays practice at the Berto Center. The game against New Orleans, I scored the first layup on a two-on-one fast break, so after that, my confidence was up. So, I started to make three-point shots from the corner, a good pass for Gibson. When its like that, my confidence is up.
Yeah, I think so. I didnt score well against the Hornets, continued Belinelli, who acknowledged that he had some extra motivation in facing his former team. I can be better than that, so I just want to work every day on that and like I said before, I think its important to win games, especially now that weve got four or five home games. So, we need to take advantage of that.
I remember the first couple games of preseason, I was little bit maybe nervous or maybe not ready to play, but thats the past, so I want to be ready for the season. I want to be ready to help this team win games.
Fair or not, Belinelli was widely billed as the successor to the departed Kyle Korver, one of the NBAs elite shooters. While Belinelli has been a relatively high-percentage marksman from beyond the arc during his career, he isnt considered as automatic as Korver, though hes more athletic and possesses better ball skills.
But just as Korver had to adjust to Thibodeaus demands on the defensive end of the floor, Belinelli has also had to change his mindset. Playing for defensive-minded Hornets head coach Monty Williams in New Orleans gave him a bit of a leg up after starting his NBA career with two notoriously bad defensive squads in Golden State and Toronto, but he still has a learning curve.
Yes, sir, he answered, when asked about the Bulls high standards on that end of the court. Last year, with Monty Williams, we played good defense, I think. But I never played defense like here in Chicago. We practice it a lot, especially in training camp. It was like one hour on defense, so it was a little bit tough for me, but at the same time, everybody knows that if you want to play, youve got to play defense, so if you understand that, itll be easier.
Its not the first time for me. Ive changed a lot of teams, added the affable shooting guard, who speaks good English, but sent the assembled media at the Berto Center into gales of laughter when he misunderstood a question about the quality of Chicagos Italian food compared to where it originates, his birthplace. I just need to be ready and be focused on the parts of the game, on offense and defense. Ive started to understand all the players.
As for Thibodeau, now that Belinelli has shown signs of getting back to his old selfof course, a new element of high-intensity defense will have to be incorporated; if Korver can transform himself into a serviceable individual defender and solid as a team defender, so can Belinelli, who moves better than the current Atlanta Hawkhe can now mix in some criticism with his encouragement, though hell continue to give the newcomer every opportunity to succeed, perhaps in part to be able to keep Hamiltons minutes down, in lieu of the veterans injury-plagued campaign a year ago, as well as manufacturing some offensive firepower off the bench and a weapon to stretch opposing defenses for a team lacking multiple long-distance threats.
Its how you play within your group and so, his playmaking has been very good throughout preseason and through the regular season, and his shot will come around and it has, so each game, I think hes gotten more comfortable. Hes a good basketball player, I think his defense is improving and thats what I meant by the nights youre not shooting well, the coach explained Monday. Theres still a number of things you can do to help the team win. I thought our rebounding in the second half against New Orleans was very poor and if youre not shooting well, you certainly should rebound well and you certainly should get back in defensive transition. Those are things that you control with your effort and your concentration, so those are things youve got to take care of.
Chimed in teammate Luol Deng: Right now, hes in here shooting with Bulls assistant coach Ron Adams, known around the league as a premier shooting guru. Hes been doing a lot of that. It happens and hes going to come out of that slump or he has already, but hes a good player and he makes plays. Marcos not just a shooter. A lot of people label him as just a catch-and-shoot guy, but hes better at making plays and setting guys up, and you can see that here and there. But I think the more comfortable he gets with the plays and what were trying to do, hell do more of that.
Compounding Belinellis early woes was the fact that for the first time since he arrived in the NBA from Italy, where he experienced team success, hes on a winning team. After only sniffing the postseason oncehis debut season in New Orleans, when the Hornets took the top-seeded Lakers to six games in the first round of the 2011 playoffsthe pressure of playing a key role on a perennial playoff squad gave him some anxiousness.
Maybe, it can be a part of that, but Im not a rookie. I dont want to use that as an excuse. Thats part of the game, he revealed. This is a big team. We want to be big, we want to win. Everybody knows that. I know that, so play hard every game and just win the game.
If he maintains that mentality, hell fit right in on the Bulls. As long as his defensive effort remains consistent, thats all Thibodeau requires.

Artemi Panarin shows off Duncan Keith's Russian singing skills

Artemi Panarin shows off Duncan Keith's Russian singing skills

Duncan Keith isn't quitting his day job anytime soon, but maybe he can moonlight as a Russian singer.

Artemi Panarin — Keith's Blackhawks teammate and a native of Korkino, Russia — posted an Instagram video Friday of Keith signing along to a song called "Gop-Stop:"

Канадский #розенбаум 😂 Canadian #singer @dk_2_

A video posted by @artemiypanarin on

Here's the YouTube video of the song, which is a famous Russian gangster song:

This is exactly what social media was made for: Bringing worlds together for the amusement and entertainment of others.

Also, hat/tip to Keith for his quality singing/rapping skills.

Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation

Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation

ATLANTA — One of the reasons Dwyane Wade was so attractive to the Bulls in free agency was a perceived ability to bring other stars along with him at some point.

Enter Chris Bosh and an ESPN rumor that states the Bulls would be first in line if Bosh becomes free from the Miami Heat on March 1. 

Bosh hasn't played for the Heat in nearly a year after a reoccurrence of blood clots, which could ultimately be deadly. Bosh and the Heat are at an impasse; Bosh wants to play, believing he's found a medication that could work for him and his condition, while the Heat don't feel it's prudent or safe for him to suit up. 

Thus, the impasse.

Since Wade and Bosh are former teammates — and Bosh appeared at the United Center earlier this month for a Bulls-Raptors game — the Bulls seem like they could be a natural destination should he become free.

"Who came up with that? I don't know. I play with the Bulls and I don't even know that," Wade said after the morning shootaround at Philips Arena in Atlanta. "That's news to me, he's one of my good friends. The biggest thing with Chris is the same thing, you know, is his health. He's not even playing basketball right now. He's going to continue on his health and I think that's what he's doing."

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The Heat can get Bosh off their salary cap Feb. 9th, the anniversary of the last game he played for them. Bosh played 53 games last year after playing 44 in the 2014-15 season, when the blood clot issue first appeared.

A player averaging 20 points and 7.2 rebounds — Bosh's numbers in the 97 games he's played since LeBron James left the Miami Heat in free agency — would be a boon, but as Wade said, his health has to come first for Bosh and whatever franchise is potentially looking at him.

It's already tricky enough when involving Bosh's desire to play and his support from the NBPA, but the NBA doesn't want to have a player potentially die on their watch, making it more difficult for a prospective team to step in and offer Bosh.

"Basketball is something he loves and I'm sure somewhere in the back of his mind he would love to be able to do again," Wade said. "But I know his steps and he's that moment is not here now. I can't even talk about next year."

Wade said the thought of Bosh coming to Chicago hasn't come up in their recent conversations, although even if it had, Wade wouldn't be the one to stoke the flames of speculation when there's so many other hurdles to clear.

"I talk to him. A lot of the issue with the Heat is at the end of the day he has something serious and they want to make sure it's not life-threatening and then it goes from there," Wade said. "Things are said and things are done, but at the end of the day, as I've always said about Chris, I know Chris is worried about his health first.

"He has a family that he loves and he wants to make sure that he's as healthy and whole as he can but also he loves the game of basketball so when that day comes there are always going to be stories about guys where they have friends at."