Marco Belinelli may be new to us, but he's been in the league since the 2007-08 season, and so I've reached out to my fellow SBNation blog managers to put together a primer on San Antonio's latest addition from Chicago by way of New Orleans by way of Toronto by way of Oakland by way of the Italian League.
A star before playing a single NBA game
Much like Manu Ginobili, Marco was very successful before crossing the Atlantic to play in the NBA. How successful was he?
"I don't know if a lot of people understand how big he was in Italy," Bulls guard Nate Robinson told the Chicago Sun-Times ... teammates had nicknamed Belinelli "Marco Jordan."
"Because where he's from," Robinson said, "he's like their Jordan."
But his legend grew even more after he blew up for the 2nd highest scoring performance in Vegas Summer League history. Here's a link to Golden State of Mind's scouting report from that game. And here's what Poor Man's Commish, the author of that report, told me about that 6 year old bit of optimism:
The report is right underneath "BEST PLAYER ON THE COURT".
Granted, all of this happened before Don Nelson reduced Marco's psyche into that of a pigeon! Honestly, I think this is a case where one bad coach derailed the potential of young, fragile-minded up-and-comer. Belinelli really did impress me 6 years ago at Summer League. I still believe what I saw.
And it was with that kind of sky-high expectation that he entered the league: star of his Italian squad, star of Summer League, coming to a Warriors squad that was itself sky-high after their "We Believe" season had seen them overcome the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round. But it wasn't the right environment for Marco and his two years playing for Golden State weren't so stellar and he was traded to Toronto before the 2009-10 season.
Above the border
Raptors fans were excited to get a guy they thought may have been mistreated in the Warriors' system, and RaptorsHQ had this conversation with GSoM about their thoughts on Marco's seasons in Cali:
Belinelli is not only less talented than the rest of the other Warrior players at his position, but less talented than about 95% of the guards in the league. He got beat out for playing time fair and square on a 29 win team. What does that tell you? He's not a very good NBA player.
But hope springs eternal in the Canadian breast. RaptorsHQ had this fun chat with Belinelli in 2009, which is definitely worth a read. If for no other reason than to see their use of standpoing, which is undoubtedly the etymological cousin of our poing guard.
One quick season and 67 games for the Raptors later, and Belinelli's time in Toronto was over. Almost exactly one year after he was traded to Toronto, the Raptors traded him to the New Orleans Hornets.
Big Easy ain't so easy
Things were different playing for the Hornets, if for no other reason than he was primarily a starter. Belinelli came off the bench in only 15% of his games with New Orleans. But in what certainly was the theme of Marco's first three NBA stops, he was relied on to generate shots, create opportunities, and help lead the attack of a team that desperately needed an offensive focal point.
This is illustrated by AtTheHive's review of Belinelli's 2011/12 season:
...a lot of the problems that Belinelli encounters stem from his being asked to do more than he's really capable of ... Belinelli also still tries but still struggles defensively. It's a problem he has not due to a lack of effort but due, simply, to a lack of lateral speed and also without a frame that supports physical play from his opponents.
Being matched up against the opposition's best shooting guards and small forwards wore on Marco, and he wasn't able to excel. Still, he increased his rebounds, assists and steals from his first year as a Hornet to his second, although his shooting percentage went down. And so ended another two-year stay, which led to him being signed by Chicago, almost a year ago.
Marco Jordan of the Bulls
From Ricky O'Donnell, the excellent Blog A Bull:
I enjoyed the Marco Belinelli era in Chicago, brief as it was. Belinelli signed a one-year, $1.9 million deal with the Bulls as the de facto replacement for Kyle Korver ... His final numbers ... 9.6 points per game on 39.5 percent shooting from the field; a 10.43 PER ... he hit a few game-winners, had some big games and generally passed the eye test. I'd say he more than lived up to his paltry contract ...
His ability to handle the rock and act as a primary ball handler in late game pick-and-roll situations really helped out ...
And here we see some success, and an idea of what Belinelli might do for the Spurs: play as a part of a successful system, exert himself on defense, handle the ball when necessary, hit threes, and come up big when necessary...
Missing Gary Neal?
One of the things that's come up time and again in the discussions about Marco is the fact that after signing him, the Spurs won't likely be able to afford Neal. And after a year that was his worst in San Antonio, a year in which he was derided as much as any player since Richard Jefferson, now the Neal supporters seem to have come out of the woodwork to remind anyone who'll listen that Gary was clutch when the Spurs needed him. That he never shrank from the moment and would confidently take, and make, shots with the game on the line.
Well, thanks to Blog A Bull, we have the following videos to prove to anyone who's curious, that Marco is capable of his own late-game heriocs. Here are his three game-winners in his one year in a Bulls uniform.
So now you know your new Spur. What do you think?