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Bulls go from Deng to Belinelli
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 29
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It wasn’t quite the Luol Deng emotional reunion, but it was another night with another popular former Bull, Marco Belinelli.
“We hated to lose him,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau before the game as the Bulls brought Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich back into the lineup. “Anyone who’s serious about basketball and serious about winning is going to thrive with Pop. The game is so important to Marco. He plays for the team and plays to win. When I heard he signed here, I knew he’d be a great fit.
“Marco had a great year for us,” Thibodeau continued. “We weren’t sure we’d be able to sign him and we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t end up empty handed. It just didn’t work out. But we love what Marco did for us. He can function well on any team. When we got Marco everyone said he was catch and shoot. We liked what he did with the ball. With Derrick out and with Kirk (Hinrich) going down we used the pick and roll to function. What we found out the way he worked, the way he got better defensively and he’s so team oriented. Whatever you ask him to do he’ll do. He’s young and will only get better.”
Belinelli said before the game he loved his time with the Bulls and was grateful the opportunity he was given. He starred in the Game 7 win in Brooklyn in the playoffs and thought he would return.
“I was like almost sure, 100 percent, that Chicago would offer me good money, good years,” said Belinelli.
But there was a difference in negotiations and the Bulls as Thibodeau said feared being left at the free agent alter. So they made the move for Mike Dunleavy and Belinelli signed with the Spurs. He quickly became a favorite of coach Gregg Popovich, a starter and leading the league in three point shooting.
“The NBA is like a business,” said Belinelli. “So I got a little bit of offers from other teams and when San Antonio called me, I didn’t think too much. Having a team that really wants to win a championship, I can really improve my game. So I think I made a really good decision to come here and try to play with great players that know how to win championships and a great coach like Pop.
“They (Bulls) contacted me, but nothing sure, 100 percent,” said Belinelli. “Maybe they were thinking about other players like Dunleavy. I don’t really know. I was happy to stay with Chicago this summer, but at the end of the day, I’m on a better team, great team, and I feel really good right now. I’m so happy. I was kind of [anxious] in the beginning, this summer, because I didn’t know much about Pop. But I know right now that he’s a great coach and he’s a great person.”
“Chicago was a great team for me,” said Belinelli. “It really helped me a lot. The fans were amazing with me; the team was good with me and Jo, Lu, Deng, Taj Gibson, a lot of players were really great teammates, but great friends. I really miss a little bit of that. But at the same time, the NBA, you never know. So you can spend one year, five, four, whatever years with some teammates. But right now, I think I can’t wait to play this game.”