Belinelli appeared before the Toronto media yesterday and pledged that his numbers will undoubtedly improve, while expressing his delight to be on the same team with countryman and good friend Andrea Bargnani.
The native of San Giovanni, Italy, believes Raptors fans are going to be surprised with his play, whether it’s starting at the two-spot or backing up rookie DeMar DeRozan.
Either way, the 23-year-old Belinelli said he just wants the chance to play, something he didn’t get to do with great regularity with the Warriors in his first two NBA seasons.
"I come into a nice city like Toronto, with a young team, a European team, so it’s really a great opportunity for me," Belinelli said, following a workout yesterday at the Air Canada Centre. "This is a new life for me."
The Raptors figure to use the 6-foot-5 Belinelli in a role he should warm to given his shooting and playmaking abilities.
"I’m a guard who can shoot, but at the same time I can create for my teammates," he said. "I practise every day for myself to be the best. It is my job and I can help this team, I think."
The Raptors have penciled in rookie DeMar DeRozan as the starting two-guard, but Belinelli could handle a backup role at that position.
Colangelo has been effusive in his praise of Belinelli, suggesting he could be in the running for most improved player, mainly because he’ll finally get a shot at consistent minutes, something that didn’t occur at Golden State.
And his off-court transition should be seamless, given the presence of Bargnani, his Italian national team teammate, and senior Raptors vice-president Maurizio Gherardini.
As I’m reading it, the part about the “coaches retreat” this weekend caught my eye. It’s something I know they did when Sam was around (consider it “bonding” with a bunch of fun, golf and frivolity to fill in the down time) and it makes entire sense to do it again.
Not only does there have to be some chemistry among the players, there has to be among coaches, too.
I’m told – and from every interaction I’ve seen it’s absolutely true – that this is a close a staff as perhaps there’s ever been.
Not to knock the previous staffs but there was always something. Not tension, I don’t think that’s the right word, and they did work well together but I do think Sam was more of a decision-maker rather than a consensus builder.
Jay’s the other way.
“I was so happy,” Belinelli said of the July deal that finally made him a Raptor. “I come here, I know some players, I know Andrea, he’s my teammate, so everything is good… a nice city like Toronto, good team, young team, European team, so it was a really great opportunity for me.”
Belinelli was the No. 18 pick in the 2007 draft but didn’t see much of the floor in Golden State. He played in only 42 of the Warriors’ 82 games last season, averaging 8.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 21 minutes.
“I’m so happy because this is my third year, and I can have more opportunity to play,” Belinelli said. “I think I’m a better player than two years ago, so I have to say thank you to the Warriors, but it’s a new life for me, a new life starts with the Toronto Raptors.”
Toronto figures to present the perfect opportunity for Belinelli to prove he can contribute in the NBA. He joins a franchise that boasts two other Italians, centre Andrea Bargnani and senior vice-president Maurizio Gherardini. And while the Raptors’ bench is indeed deep, it is not overflowing with scorers.
"I’m watching a lot of video," Raptors coach Jay Triano said on Thursday, "Which plays, when Belinelli got a chance to be a great scorer in Golden State, did they run for him? And he handled the ball a lot."
"I’m a guard that can shoot. But at the same time, I can create for my teammates," Belinelli said. "I can help this team, I think."
And in Toronto, he should get that chance.
Top 10 Raptors plays of the season.
The NBA will hold training camp next week with replacement officials, saying the referees union has rejected its final contract offer.
The National Basketball Referees Association has been bracing for a lockout since talks first broke down last week. Lead negotiator Lamell McMorris called it “imminent and unavoidable” after no deal was reached Thursday.
A statement from the NBA on Friday made it clear the lockout was under way.
“It is extremely disappointing that the NBRA has ignored the economic realities, rejected our offer, and left us with no choice but to begin using replacement referees,” executive vice-president and general counsel Rick Buchanan said.
Those expecting the Raptors to experience “guaranteed succees” this season … along the lines of what the Magic had in 2008-2009 … on the basis of this specific set play, might be in for a surprise.
"I talked with (Bryan) Colangelo and he told me this is a good spot for me and I can have a lot of opportunity to play. Now is my time to see what I can do. I want to be ready for that."