DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The relief on Marco Belinelli's face is easy to spot these days.
After struggling through the preseason to find his shot --and his place on the revamped Chicago Bulls bench -- the Italian sharpshooter actually felt better about his performance over the weekend, dropping in 13 points in a loss to his old team, the New Orleans Hornets. Belinelli said Monday that his confidence has gone up after seeing his shot go down a few times on Saturday.
"I remember the first couple games of the preseason I was a little bit maybe nervous or maybe not ready to play, but that's the past," Belinelli said. "So I want to be ready for this season, I want to be ready to help this team win games."
Belinelli's solid outing did not surprise Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. He believed Belinelli would turn everything around, even after his shaky performance throughout the first few weeks of the preseason schedule.
"His playmaking has been very good throughout the preseason and into the regular season, and his shot will come around and it has," Thibodeau said. "Each game I think he's gotten more comfortable. He's a good basketball player, I think his defense is improving. That's what I meant by (on) the nights you're not shooting well there's still a number of things you can do to help the team win."
Belinelli's rising confidence has not gone unnoticed by his teammates, either. They see him putting in the work after practice and they know he will fit into what Thibodeau wants him to do.
"It happens," Bulls forward Luol Deng said of Belinelli's early slump. "He's going to come out of it, or he has already. He's a good player and he makes plays. Marco's not just a shooter. A lot of people label him as just a catch-and-shoot guy but he's actually better at making plays and setting guys up and you can see that here and there. I think the more comfortable he gets with the plays and what we're trying to do he will do more of that."
What Belinelli has been forced to do more under Thibodeau is exert himself on the defensive end. The veteran guard admitted that the biggest difference between Chicago and other stops in the league is the insistence on playing defense at all times.
"With Monty Williams (in New Orleans) we played good defense I think, but I never played defense like here in Chicago," Belinelli said. "We practice a lot, especially for the training camp, it was like one hour and then an hour and a half on defense so it was a little bit tougher for me, but at the same time, everybody knows that if you want to play (here) you have to play defense, so if you understand that everything's going to be more easy."