Marco Belinelli is 27, an age where most athletes sustain peak performance for a few years before their athleticism drops off as they enter their early 30's, and the San Antonio Spurs will be his fifth professional team (Golden State, New Orleans, Toronto, Chicago) in seven seasons. A precarious position, to be sure.
He's played on just two playoff teams — the 2010-11 Hornets, ousted by the Lakers in the first round, and the 2012-13 Bulls, eliminated by the defending champion Miami Heat in the semifinals — so the impetus to win a title is suffocating. Belinelli isn't content with collecting massive pay checks, while chipping in along the margins for mediocre teams.
That's why, more than anything, he signed a two-year, $6 million contract with San Antonio this offseason.
Instead of optimizing his financial potential, and taking a larger contract, he willingly took a sizable pay cut (Belinelli reportedly received larger offers from a few non-playoff teams, but elected to take a paycut of approximately two million per year) in order to be apart of a championship contender. But it wasn't until last season, on a Bulls team without point guard Derrick Rose, that Belinelli knew his future career path.
Via NBA Italia:
"My career in the NBA until now has always been a bet at myself," Belinelli said. "Step by step I grew up, until I got to Chicago. Last season was crucial for me to finally understand what I want. I want to play with the best and win."
Belinelli makes his living knocking down open 3-pointers (chipping these looks in at a 38.7 percent clip), curling around screens, knifing into the defense, and being a productive secondary ball handler off the bench. That's exactly what the Spurs need, especially since restricted free agent Gary Neal's price tag became too prohibitive. San Antonio did their due diligence in free agency, even kicking the tires on gunner Monta Ellis, but once they narrowed in on Belinelli, they did not hesitate.
"The Spurs did not hesitate," Belinelli said. "And they're the best organization in the league; I have always admired them and now I'm one of them. This is what I want. Even the money I gave up, and without any regret, a large sum of money."
Leaving millions of dollars on the table isn't an easy decision. Belinelli is willing to forgo a few luxuries (more than just a few actually), so he can be in the best position to grab his illustrious first NBA championship.