He may not be with the San Antonio Spurs anymore, but Marco Belinelli is showing he can still ball. After 13 years in the NBA, the 34-year-old returned to where his basketball career began last November, signing a three-year deal with Virtus Bologna.
The legendary club is the oldest one in Italy and has won 15 Italian national championships since its inception in 1929. Before being drafted into the NBA in 2007, Belinelli was an Italian Supercup winner, named Italian Supercup MVP, and won an Italian League title with Fortitudo Bologna.
The return of the Italian star to his home country has been mutually beneficial for both sides. While still a deadly shooter, Belinelli had lost his way in his final season with the Spurs. On top of his questionable shot selection leading to one of the worst shooting seasons of his career at 39.2 percent, his defensive issues contributed greatly to San Antonio being in the bottom five defensively.
Of course, Belinelli alone can’t be blamed for the Spurs’ defensive issues last season. Gregg Popovich’s decision to play Bryn Forbes so heavily was also befuddling at times — and pairing him with Marco only made matters worse. Fortunately, San Antonio has since upgraded in spades at both positions.
After having the lowest-scoring season he’s had since his rookie year at 6.3 points per game, Marco is now the leading Virtus Bologna in points per game with 14.3 while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Both statistics are higher than he’s ever averaged in a season in the NBA (which was against much tougher competition, of course).
Although he’s only been used sparingly for the ballclub, he’s had some lights-out performances for Virtus Bologna, highlighted by this 25-point, five-rebound performance in this January game against Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana:
As of Sunday, Belinelli’s team is 12-6, good for fourth in Lega Basket Serie A (the Italian basketball league). While it’s not likely Marco will ever return to the NBA, we’ll always have his outstanding debut year with the Spurs to look back on — one that saw him play a crucial role in a championship season.
It’s good to see a standup guy like Marco still doing what he loves and succeeding at it along the way.