Marco Belinelli Wants to Remain With New Orleans Hornets
Belinelli, after a voyage from his native Italy to Golden State and then to Toronto, landed this season in New Orleans. When he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, that's where Belinelli wants to stay.
"I'm happy to stay with New Orleans because I love the organization, the team,'' Belinelli said in an interview with FanHouse before the Hornets' 96-87 win Sunday night at Denver. "Yeah, why not (re-sign with New Orleans). With the Hornets, yeah, I'm happy. ... I love the people. I love the coaching staff. It's going to be great.''
The 6-foot-5 guard didn't love too much during his first three NBA seasons after being the No. 18 pick in the NBA draft by the Warriors in 2007 following a stint with Italian team Fortitudo Bologna. Before becoming a starter this season with the Hornets, his playing time was sporadic in two Golden State seasons and one with Toronto.
It didn't help Belinelli's cause that expectations perhaps unfairly soared after he scored 37 points in a 2007 Las Vegas Summer League game. He then scored just 95 points his entire rookie season.
"The expectations over there were incredible the first year,'' Belinelli said. "I remember the summer league after the big game. After that, it was tough for me because a lot of guys were there (providing Golden State playing competition at guard). Monta Ellis. Stephen Jackson. It was tough for me. But I never gave up.''
That wasn't the case with the Warriors. Belinelli said "they don't believe in me'' when they traded him in July 2009 to the Raptors after seasons in which he averaged 2.9 and 8.9 points. After he averaged 7.1 last season for Toronto, the Hornets took a shot last August, acquiring him for forward Julian Wright.
"We had no idea,'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said of what they thought they were getting. "We have a bunch guys who have always been in backup positions, and we just felt he was going to be a good fit in that starting lineup because he can shoot the ball.''
The Hornets didn't offer Belinelli a contract extension by the Nov. 1 deadline, assuring he would become a restricted free agent this summer. But Belinelli has shown he's worthy of sticking around by averaging 11.3 points on 40.0 percent three-point shooting, both on track to be career bests, while starting all 38 games.
"He's a guy who can shoot the ball,'' Williams said. "He's tough. Tries to play defense. Makes plays in attacking the basket and he works hard. Nobody can ever take away his desire and passion to try to get better. He spends a lot of time with (assistant coach Michael) Malone before and after practice working on his game. It's paid off for him.''
Belinelli, 24, says it's just a matter of finally getting playing time. He started just 24 games his first three seasons.
"For me, (this is) the first year that I really play and I'm an NBA player,'' Belinelli said. "The first year I didn't play a lot, the second a little bit more and the third year a little more. I was not happy about that, but at the same time was just working a lot to try to stay positive. ... This is a dream for me. I want to stay in the league. I want to play. I want to win. So now I'm so happy to be on this team.''
He'd like to put in writing next summer the opportunity to stick around.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson