SAN ANTONIO—Coming into Wednesday night’s 101-83 loss to the Spurs at the AT&T Center, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau praised Marco Belinelli’s ability to run the offense as a de facto point guard.
“He has playmaking abilities and I liked the ball moving side to side. When the ball gets swung, it gives you an opportunity for another pick-and-roll, so I thought that was effective. He got in a pretty good rhythm,” he said. “I do like it. He does a little bit of everything. Obviously the catch-and-shoot, we knew about that. The playmaking, I think he’s gotten more comfortable as the season’s gone along, with that. But he’s got good size to pass over people, too.”
Despite the defeat, Belinelli was again effective in that role, scoring 21 points and dishing out seven assists, both team-highs.
Even with the likes of Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague alongside him in the backcourt, Belinelli was often the Bulls’ primary ballhandler and was comfortable in that role, something that can be traced back to his early years in the sport, back in his native Italy.
“When I was really young, I was taught to play point guard, so I think I can do that. I need to be better at that and I’m going to be better, of course. I need to be complete, like I said 100 times,” he explained. “I just like to be on the court, help my teammates win the game and if I have to bring the ball up or take some three-point shots or something like that, that’s okay.”
Belinelli’s teammates have been pleased with the nominal shooting guard’s versatility.
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“It’s another pick-and-roll option,” said All-Star Luol Deng. “He’s very good at pick-and-roll and we’re doing a good job of just using that right now.”
Fellow All-Star Joakim Noah concurred: “He can make a lot of things happen and just the way he attacks the basket, and hitting his shots, he’s very versatile.”
Spurs display impressive depth
When Thibodeau talks about every team in the league as if they’re the Jordan-era Bulls, it’s easy to be skeptical.
But after the way seemingly the entire Spurs roster played Wednesday, maybe he should be taken more seriously when lauding the potential of the third-string point guard on one of the NBA’s cellar-dwellers.
San Antonio got 45 points from its bench and while 18 of those were score by sixth-man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili, unheralded players like backup point guard Patty Mills and afterthought veteran forward Boris Diaw, who didn’t play in the first half, also hurt the Bulls.
“Diaw came into the game and gave them a good spark because of what he can do in the high post. That hurt us and we’ve got to play tougher,” Thibodeau explained. “When you look at who they’re bringing off the bench—like Patty Mills is a terrific shooter, so you can’t come off the body. Ginobili’s an All-Star. Stephen Jackson’s been a great player in the league for a long time. Diaw’s been a starter in the league. So, there’s a lot coming at you. [Matt] Bonner, in the first half, even when he’s not making shots, he’s going to space the floor because of what he does, and they move so well without the ball, so they’re going to make you pay for body-position mistakes. If your ball pressure’s poor, they’re going to pick you apart.”
Additionally, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan also had a big night, going for 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots—as well as an exchange of words with Noah—and fellow starting big man Tiago Splitter chipped in with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“I don’t know what Duncan’s drinking from the fountain of youth or something. Five blocked shots,” Thibodeau said. “Splitter’s big and physical, so they did a good job in the paint. It was hard to get it in there and when we did, we missed, so that’s a credit to their defense and size, and I thought their ball pressure was very good in the second half.”
Noah added: “[Duncan is] tough, man, As tough as they come and executes. They’re a team that executes their offense very well. Timmy, he’s a tough player to play.”
Deng utilizes latest technology to help keep fresh
Prior to the last two games, Deng has been spotted in the locker room wearing a contraption that resembles pants worn by astronauts.
The curious-looking device, made by a company called Normatec, is actually something that benefits the ironman’s legs and helps keep him fresh.
“It’s just for recovery. What it does is compression and it just gets your blood flowing. It’s basically just pressing your legs, pressing your legs and release, and that gets your blood flowing for soreness and recovery,” he told CSNChicago.com. “We used it in the back. I guess we don’t mind if you guys write about it. I think in the beginning, we were hiding it. But it works. A lot of teams in the NBA use it. I saw a couple guys—Kevin Durant and a couple other guys; I saw Kobe tweeting it.”
According to a source, the technical term for what the product does is “sequential compression” and it’s been adopted in some shape or form by approximately half of the teams in the league.
But seeing Deng strapped into pants that look like he’s going on a expedition to outer space, not play a basketball game, is certainly a sight to see.
However, after seeing him throw down two high-flying dunks against in Sunday’s loss to Indiana, it appears he knows what he’s doing.
Robinson’s footwear selection draws attention
As posted on Twitter by injured teammate Taj Gibson, Robinson began the game wearing a pair of unique sneakers, at least for an NBA player: Nike Air Yeezy 2’s, designed by Chicago rapper Kanye West.
The shoes, which retail for over $2,000, were a diversion from his usual Air Jordans, but Robinson ditched them for a pair of the Bulls legend’s signature sneakers midway through the first quarter.
“It didn’t help any. Trying something different, I guess,” Robinson told CSNChicago.com. “I’ve worn them a few times [off the court]. I’ve got a couple pairs of them…it was a little slippery [on the court]. I had to take them off.”
Thibodeau, however, was more concerned with Robinson’s tendency to get carried away with launching deep shots after he made a few, which resulted in a 3-for-13 evening from the field.
“There’s good ones and bad ones, and I think you have to know the difference. You have to know when you have the hot hand and when you don’t,” he said. “But it’s not a one-man game. It’s a five-man game. We didn’t play well as a team.”