The Charlotte Hornets asked shooting guard Nic Batum what he thought of Marco Belinelli before completing the trade that acquired Belinelli from the Sacramento Kings.
"I said, ‘Do it right now!’" Batum recalled Monday with a sense of gusto.
Batum and Belinelli have played against each other since they were teenagers in Europe. Batum sees a wide skill set in Belinelli that somewhat reminds him of his own game. So the chance to add a shooter with complementary passing ability made Belinelli quite attractive to Batum, who re-signed with the Hornets in July.
"He’s a great player. I think people don’t know how crazy (good) he is," Batum said. "He can shoot from everywhere and anywhere. If he gets a shot, he can make it. "
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That was more true in seasons prior to his most recent one. Belinelli signed a free-agent contract with the Sacramento Kings in the summer of 2015, and it was a bad fit. While he averaged 10.2 points as a King, his 3-point percentage slipped to a career-worst 30.6 percent.
Over his nine-season NBA career, Belinelli has averaged 37.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Last season’s dip helps explain why Belinelli was available in trade. On draft night, the Hornets sent the rights to the 22nd pick (Malachi Richardson from Syracuse) to the Kings and absorbed the remaining two seasons on Belinelli’s contract, which is about $6.3 million this season and $6.6 million next season.
The size of that contract and Belinelli’s age (he turned 30 in March) make acquiring him a bit of a gamble. But Hornets coach Steve Clifford has long admired Belinelli’s game. The Hornets looked into signing Belinelli as a free agent two summers ago before instead signing guard Jeremy Lin.
"I’ve always been a huge fan of his," said Clifford, who starts coaching his fourth training camp in Charlotte Tuesday morning.
"The thing I like about him is he has played his best in the biggest games. Look back at him in the Finals with San Antonio. He played terrific. I think he can do a lot of the things offensively that we got from Jeremy and Courtney (Lee)."
Lin signed with the Brooklyn Nets in July and Lee signed with the New York Knicks. That made shooting guard and small forward areas needing depth, and at 6-foot-5 Belinelli can play both positions.
Clifford is committed to the one-in/four-out offensive style he used most of last season. Succeeding in that style requires plenty of 3-point shooters. Batum, Marvin Williams and Kemba Walker all shot 34 percent or better from 3-point range last season.
Belinelli is a different player from Lin or Lee, but like both of them, he can help stretch the floor with his shooting, opening better driving lanes for point guard Walker.
"I’m a good 3-point shooter, even though last season with the Kings wasn’t all that good," Belinelli said. "I think I handle the ball well, too. On the pick-and-roll, I can create for teammates."
Belinelli started playing basketball at 6, an age when most of his classmates in Italy were instead in love with soccer. Belinelli came to the NBA in 2007 as a Golden State Warrior. He has since played for the Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Hornets, Chicago Bulls, plus the Spurs and Kings.
He played in the NBA Finals with the Spurs in 2014.
One trait he feels his new team shares with the Spurs is unselfishness.
"Sacrifice is the most important thing. On offense and defense, everybody is ready to help each other," Belinelli said. "I’m going to score and play the best defense that I can."
He knows he’s coming off a season that created doubts. He brought that up before being asked at Monday’s media session.
"The year in Sacramento was really tough for me. It was tough for the Kings," Belinelli said. "Those things happen. I’m motivated to be here."
A career .379 shooter from 3-point range, Marco Belinelli (above) hopes to rebound from a subpar season with Sacramento:
* Pelicans were the New Orleans Hornets