|14 July 2013|
|Marco Belinelli is excited about a summer ahead with the Italian national team|
Despite Danilo Gallinari's severe knee injury, Italy should line up with a strong squad featuring three NBA players at EuroBasket in Slovenia.
Asides from center Andrea Bargnani, who just moved to the New York Knicks, and rookie forward Gigi Datome (who signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Pistons), guard Marco Belinelli declared himself available.
"A few days ago, I spoke with coach Simone Pianigiani, and I told him I will be available. In a few hours I will talk to my new NBA franchise and I will discuss the summer schedule," the 27-year old guard said in Naples, during a recent return home.
Belinelli just signed a two-year deal with 2013 NBA runners-up, the San Antonio Spurs, where he will enhance the foreign presence in the squad which also includes Frenchmen Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo; South Americans Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Tiago Splitter (Brazil); Canadian Cory Joseph; and Aussies Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.
Coming off an excellent season with the Chicago Bulls, where he became the first Italian player to go past the first round of the NBA playoffs, Belinelli's confidence levels rose considerably. He helped the Bulls win their series against the Brooklyn Nets by scoring 24 points in Game 7 on the road.
"Last season I gained a lot of confidence, three times I scored on the clutch play (against Boston, Detroit and Utah) and several times coach Thibodeau gave me the ball for the last possession, just telling me: play a pick-and-roll and take the decision."
In San Antonio, Belinelli will play for an even more ambitious team, but first he has a summer with the Azzurri to focus on. "I've always been a proud member of my national team, and I was available anytime I could," said the guard, who played at the 2006 FIBA World Championships and the 2007 and 2011 editions of EuroBasket.
Belinelli is ready to be back with Italy after missing last summer's campaign, when Pianigiani's team closed the Qualification Round with a perfect 8-0 record. "Our chemistry was our team's secret. And despite Gallinari's absence, we can be competitive."
"We'll play with high motivations, our core is made of mature players, who are experienced, and the fourth player moving to the NBA is an important positive sign for basketball in our country," the shooting guard enthused.
"I'm proud of Datome, it's the right moment for him to try such an important experience. He is coming off an excellent season and his excellent current form and confidence will help the whole national team."
Looking forward, Belinelli is ready to run for an NBA title, but he is also eager to earn positive results with his national team: "Our latest summer campaigns weren't positive, but our generation can look for some important achievements. We just need to remember that, in international basketball, chemistry is always the main prerogative."
Even if Italy's run at EuroBasket doesn't look easy - the team will start in group D, against Greece, Russia, Turkey, Sweden and Finland - Belinelli wants to be confident. "We'll get to Slovenia as an outsider team, but we have the necessary tools to play perform strongly."