DALLAS –– Hawks guard Marco Belinelli (Achilles) looked good while playing 25 minutes against the Mavericks in his first competitive game since the Oct. 1 exhibition contest at Miami.
“I felt good,” Belinelli said after the regular-season opener Wednesday. “I’m still not 100 percent. I’ve been working on that with the (training) staff. I was feeling good. I just want to see how (I feel) when I wake up tomorrow morning. But right now I am good. I am happy for the win.”
Belinelli had a lot to do with that: 20 points (14 shots), three assists, three steals. He made the second-unit offense go and also was on the floor at closing time. Belinelli’s plus-14 was tops among Hawks players who logged at least 13 minutes.
The way Belinelli played in his Hawks debut suggests his transformation into a more versatile offensive player with the Hornets may have been no fluke. Belinelli has pretty much been a strictly catch-and-shoot player over his 10 NBA seasons, but was an efficient scorer as the pick-and-roll ball-handler last season while also improving his production as a passer.
Spot-up shooting is always going to be Belinelli’s forte. But Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer indicated that Belinelli will be the primary ball-handler at times.
“Occasionally just getting him the ball and letting him play pick-and-roll,” Budenholzer said. “He’s a good decision-maker. Obviously, he can make shots. He creates a lot of open 3’s for that second unit (with) the way he cuts and moves without the ball. I think he mostly will play off the ball but we want to get him in pick-and-roll situations, get him in decision-making situations.”
Many times Belinelli will decide to shoot. Few bench players can top Belinelli’s 12.5 shots per 36 minutes from 2007 through last season. He’s crafty at finding openings and his quick release means he only needs a bit of time and space to get off a shot.
Dennis Schroder said that when he saw “Belinelli doing his thing for Italy” at EuroBasket over the summer he knew he’d be ready to help the Hawks.
“I was exciting when I heard he was here,” Schroder said. “It’s just great to have somebody like that coming off the bench and looking for his own shot.”
The Hawks had that last season with Tim Hardaway Jr. He gave the Hawks scoring punch off the bench with a 53.7 effective field-goal percentage and 19.1 points per 36 minutes (though offset by his defensive deficiencies).
Belinelli can fill a similar role for the Hawks and help them be a better offensive team than projected this season (or, if you are on the tank train, increase his trade value).
“I fit well in this system,” Belinelli said. “We play together. We move the ball on offense. We are a young team but at the same time we know that if we can be aggressive we can win games.”
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