Marco Belinelli: "The NBA is part of my future, not of my present"
Marco Belinelli: Strange for sure. But in that precise moment, it was the only thing to do. I thought the most difficult thing would be adjusting to the senior team. I was coming from Virtus Bologna, but there I was a junior teams' player. Fortitudo gave me a big welcome so I could feel at ease, especially thanks to my coach, Jasmin Repesa, who pushed up the young players and helped us improve.
Bologna is very passionate about basketball. Did fans give you a hard time about the change?
MB: Naaaah, just the usual things – the jokes from and with friends. I think everybody understood signing with Fortitudo was the only thing I could do when Virtus crashed.
MB: Right now I'm a little bit disappointed after being eliminated from the Euroleague. Now we have to focus on the Italian championship, and we definitely have chances. About my season, my goal is to improve day by day and I hope to get some good team results. I care about minutes, but I want to win because results and victories help you too.
The team did not allow you to play in the Nike Hoop Summit. Are you upset about that?
MB: I'm just a little bit disappointed, but absolutely not hurt. While the exhibition game was being played, I was on the court, facing a big game against Siena. We won that game an I played well. I know the Nike Hoop Summit is a very important date for young players and NBA scouts. But what can I say? They will have to fly here and watch me play in the Italian League.
Basketball fans in Italy are excited about a new generation of players – Stefano Mancinelli, Angelo Gigli, Andrea Bargnani and you, basically. Do you feel any pressure for this?
MB: Knowing that many people are looking at us and knowing about NBA interest in us is a big pleasure. I don't feel pressure, just pleasure. Talking about me, NBA is part of my future, not of my present. Right now I'm feeling great here and I'm not thinking about external pressure.
Who do you think is the best player or the player with the best future of the four?
MB: Each of us has talent and potential, skills and weaknesses. We have different ages but we have played against each other several times. I don't know who could have the best future, even though I still remember Bargnani playing the Italian National Finals for young men years ago. He was already tall, he could already shoot well from outside. Basically, I think we are quite similar. We will keep playing. Scouts and franchises will decide. It also depends on the situation you come from – like a club playing Euroleague or not. And also what kind of franchise you will find.
Do you give much thought to the possibility of playing in the NBA?
MB: All depends on the word "playing." If I make it, I want to go ready to play and be important on the team – being part of the rotation, not having a sparring-partner role.
Any option that you declare for the NBA draft this season?
MB: No. And, honestly, I haven't thought about it. Not because I don't have an answer, but because I'm focused on Fortitudo and this season. I just think about being important here and improving in this club.
How much time do you think you'll need to get ready to play in the NBA?
MB: I think a player can be ready at 23 or 24 years old. Then, who knows? Maybe in two years I will feel good enough and ready to take this step, but only if I have previously reached my goals. I want to be important on the team, be a key player, know how to win a game by myself, not apart from the team, but leading it to win. Maybe when I've won something, I would be able to say that I am a true player.
What areas of your game do you think need more improvement?
MB: All areas. One of the most important thing is staying focused all game long. Then the fundamentals – defense, grabbing rebounds, shooting and trying to become a point guard, too.
What type of player would you like to become in the next few years ? Do you have any model to follow?
MB: I usually look at two players: Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili. Especially Kobe. I love to watch him play and I try to emulate him jumping, playing hard defense, hitting pull-up shots. Obviously I've got a passion for Manu, too. I grew up in Virtus when he was playing here in Bologna, and my best memory is when he recognized me during the Nike Battlegrounds in Milan a few months ago. We talked a little bit and he told me about people in the NBA and gave me some advices.
Have you stayed in touch with former teammate Carlos Delfino? What does he tell you about the NBA?
MB: I heard of him during the first months of the season, then he got problems and we stopped talking. He told me about the difficulty of the first impact and that you have to stay focused all the time, to practice and improve. But I was told he's coming here for some time, so I hope to talk with him in depth. And finally, I hope he gives me his No. 20 jersey.
Being a Kobe Bryant fan, what are your thoughts about the season the Lakers have had?
MB: I already knew a single player can't do everything. I already knew it, but what happened reinforced this opinion. Kobe is amazing, but he cannot win alone. Last year, with another star like Shaq, was totally different.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com. MarcoBelinelli.it's webmaster Alessio Arlotti and La Repubblica's journalist Marco Martelli helped conduct the interview
Tell us what you think about this interview. E-mail us at HoopsHype@HoopsHype.com