SOUTH BEND, IND. For Marco Belinelli, the seven points he scored in Friday evenings Bulls win over the Pacers were more symbolic than anything else. Known as a sharpshooter over the course of his NBA career, the native of Italy has been mired in a slump the entire preseason.
So when he hit an improbable three-pointer to beat the shot clock in the first half of the exhibition finale the shooting guards first of the preseason it felt like a weight was lifted off his back. He would later go on to hit a contested fadeaway jumper out of the mid-post, then a layup off a sharp cut in the second half and played, at the least, determined defense.
This is a good team, so I just want to be the best player that I can be. But its important tonight to me that we won the game and I hope that were going to be ready for the first regular-season game, Belinelli said afterwards. I was really pissed off, especially when a shooter cant score the ball. Its terrible, but at the same time, I try to be positive, work on my shot and be ready to score the ball. Its important to me to go on the court and be real aggressive. Thats the most important thing.
I just tried to be more aggressive. I was watching the games, the last couple games that I didnt play real well, so I wasnt aggressive. That was one of my mistakes, so tonight, I went to the court, tried to be aggressive, take my shot, take the foul or do something for my teammates and be aggressive on defense. I think that tonight its important that we won the game and every day is better, he continued. That was crazy because I missed the first three-point shot when I was wide-open, but I scored a three-point shot that was crazy. But I think that was important for me, for my confidence, so for now, everythings going to be better.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to insist that hes less concerned about Belinellis shooting than his overall play. Still, he has to be relieved that on a team without a plethora of outside marksmen, let alone defensive magnet Derrick Rose to attract attention, that Belinelli took a step in the right direction.
I dont think hes been playing poorly. I think he hasnt shot well so far. But he will. We know that. Hes already proven that. I think hes made several big plays off the dribble for us and defensively, hes improving each day, Thibodeau explained. He still has a long way to go, but hes got to be confident in his ability to play well on the nights on which he doesnt shoot the ball well and I think he can.
Belinelli hopes Friday was just the start of bigger and better things for him, as he adjusts to the best NBA team hes played for during his career. He admitted that hed been overly preoccupied with his errant shot.
Maybe thats why, because I didnt think too much. Maybe thats one of the reasons, he said. We played well. We passed the ball amazing, we played defense and tonight we took a lot of rebounds, so tonight, especially against this team, that was really important. Now, finally were going to start the season Wednesday.