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Belinelli finding smooth transition to Plan B trumping best laid plans

San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli has been one of the more interesting stories of the first half of the season for the Spurs. After his signing, most expected he'd play spot minutes, come into the game as a three-point threat when needed and work to acclimate himself to the Spurs and their infamous system and schemes that several former players have said takes a minimum of one year to really get accustomed to.
 
The likes of Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Antonio McDyess among others have spoken at length about the one-year feeling out period before the truly felt like they found their place with the Spurs.
 
But somehow Belinelli has cast aside traditions as he seems to have seamlessly found a way to weave himself into the team's fabric and culture almost as easily as he weaves himself through opposing defenses..
 
The Spurs signed Belinelli after opting to not re-sign Gary Neal, and have found a player that fits in better with the team, not to mention their pocketbooks.
 
But while Belinelli is more than happy to have traded in the metropolis of Chicago for the slower-paced, small market town of San Antonio now, there was a time not long ago when the Italian guard could only see the Windy City in his future.
 
But Belinelli found himself in a situation similar to Neal. While he wanted nothing more than to return to the Bulls, the team thought they had a better fit, and a lighter load on their wallets, in free agent Mike Dunleavy.
 
With his future destination in question, and a few offers coming his way, Belinelli listened and pondered, until one came his way that could perhaps put him in a better position than he had been in.
 
It didn't take Belinelli much thinking at all before jumping at the proverbial door that had just opened for him, according to an interview the guard did with ESPN Chicago.
 
"I was almost sure, 100 percent, that Chicago was [going to] offer me good money, good [years]," Belinelli said. "But the NBA is a business. I got a little bit of offers from other teams and when San Antonio called me I didn't think too much, honestly. Having a team that really wanted to win a championship and I can really improve my game, so I think I [made] a really good decision to come here and try to be a better player. Play with great players that know how to win championship and a great coach like Pop." 
 
Aside from going from one playoff team to another, Belinelli also had the luxury of joining a team with as strong a leader as he had in Chicago in Tom Thibodeau.
 
"We hated to lose him," Thibodeau said. "I think anyone that's serious about basketball and serious about winning, they're going to thrive with Pop, they are. The game is so important to Marco. He plays for the team, he plays to win, and when I heard he signed here I knew he would be a great fit."
 
And a great fit he has certainly been. In 24 minutes per game, Belinelli is averaging 10.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He is also second in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 45.4 percent from beyond the arch, a likely factor in his selection for the three-point contest in New Orleans next week.
 
More importantly, he has also built chemistry and on-court rapport with his teammates, including a favorite and former Italian League teammate in Manu Ginobili, who has had a part in easing Belinelli's transition by speaking to him and translating instructions in Italian.
 
The Spurs have Belinelli on the books through next season, but luckily they won't have to wait that long to see if their investment paid off. The ROI on the 27-year-old guard is already through the roof in year one.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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