Spotlight | Belinelli, Sixers Excited to Join Forces

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

With a disciplined hand and judicious approach, Bryan Colangelo went about his business at this year’s trade deadline, willing to take whatever the lay of the land gave him.

The 76ers’ President of Basketball Operations also said he would adopt a similar mindset in monitoring the buyout market in the days that followed, just in case an appealing pick-up were to become available.

One did, and Colangelo acted swiftly, making an aggressive push to sign Marco Belinelli to a free agent contract late Monday afternoon, once the veteran shooter cleared waivers.

Inside the Sixers locker room at The Center, shortly before Monday’s tip-off against the New York Knicks, Belinelli told reporters he had been courted by roughly a half dozen teams.

Why pick the Sixers?

“Because I trust the process,” he said, seemingly right at home.

Belinelli, who will sport the No. 18 for the Sixers and has watched the club sporadically throughout the season, then went on to explain in greater detail the factors that convinced him to come to Philadelphia.

“I think [the Sixers] play really well, play together on offense and defense,” said Belinelli. “Just the opportunity to help this team make a run to the playoffs is going to be good to me. I’m really happy, and ready to play.”

Now in his 11th NBA season, Belinelli began the season with the Atlanta Hawks, where he appeared in 52 games, all but one as a reserve. In that time, the soon-to-be 32 year-old (his birthday is March 25th) averaged 11.4 points in 23.3 minutes per game. It represented the most prolific scoring rate of his professional career.

“He’s a shot-maker,” said Brett Brown, who’s close with several of Belinelli’s former coaches. “He’s good people, he’s a good teammate. He knows a lot of people I know, and I’m excited to bring him into the program.”

While the Sixers believe that Belinelli can be more than just a perimeter threat, his track record, as Brown noted, is that of a steady shooter, first and foremost.

During his time in the league, Belinelli has converted 37.7 percent of his more than 2,500 3-point attempts. This season, he’s eight triples shy of the century mark for a second straight year, and fifth time ever.

With the Sixers being a squad that promotes 3-point shooting, and the skill being vitally important to the balance of their roster, Belinelli will have the chance to make an impact. That he’ll also bring a seasoned punch to the bench is another plus.

Brown expects Belinelli to be an effective complement on multiple fronts.

“There are times he’s going to play with JJ [Redick], you immediately go to the space he provides Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid],” Brown said. “I see him coming in as an eighth man, a scoring man off the bench. We brought him here to help us move the program forward, get in the playoffs, and I think his resume, his experience allows him to do that.”

“It’s definitely going to be a great addition,” said Robert Covington. “That’s another shooter to get spacing on the court. It’s going to open up the court even more, and make our offense flow a lot differently.”

A two-time participant in the NBA’s annual 3-point shooting contest, and the competition’s champion in 2014, Belinelli will now be playing for his ninth different team. He was originally drafted by the Golden State Warriors 18th overall in 2007, and has since suited up for the Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, and Charlotte Hornets, as well as Atlanta.

Belinelli has also been a long-time member of the Italian national team, and is the first native-born Italian to ever play for the Sixers.

“I’m going to for sure try to help the team to be better,” he said.