SACRAMENTO -- Vlade Divac walked into the summer of 2015 with a wish list. He needed playmakers, defensive-minded bigs and shooters.
Rajon Rondo filled the first need. He’s bounced back from a rough stretch to lead the NBA in assists. He is so much more than anyone could have expected both on and off the court.
Divac used the sixth pick to bring in Willie Cauley-Stein and then gave big man Kosta Koufos a 4-year, $33 million contract to sure up the middle. Koufos is still adjusting to playing next to Cousins, but Cauley-Stein is looking like a home run for the rookie GM.
When Divac inked Marco Belinelli to a 3-year, $19 million deal this summer, he thought he had taken care of the third item on his shopping list.
Belinelli had spent the previous eight seasons moving from one NBA city to the next dropping in balls from long range. A career 39.2 percent shooter from 3-point land coming into the season, Belinelli has been anything but lights out in his first season in a Kings inform.
In 45 games off the bench and two as a starter, Belinelli is averaging 10.8 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting from the field and just 30.7 percent from three. In his last 10 games, it’s even worse.
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With Ben McLemore sitting out his first career game on Monday night, Belinelli got the call against the Bucks. He finished with 18 points in 36 minutes of work, but again, he struggled with his shot. He hit just 5-of-15 from the field and 2-of-9 from deep, although his two makes from behind the arc came in the deciding fourth quarter.
“I thought Marco hit some shots, but he still hasn’t had that hot night, that night where he can blow a game up with his shooting,” George Karl said.
Karl has given Belinelli plenty of freedom to expand his game this season. In past stops, the Italian-born wing was used as more of a catch-and-shoot player on the perimeter. Karl likes his playmaking ability and runs plenty of pin-down sets for the veteran with the second unit. The results have been less than stellar.
“I’m not the guy that wants to have a couple of plays to score,” Belinelli said. “I never had that thing before in San Antonio, in Chicago. I just like to be on the court and read the defense, try to be aggressive and try to score easy shots.”
There’s no hiding from the numbers. Belinelli knows full-well that he is struggling. He also knows that the Kings brought him in to open the floor for his teammates and his inability to knock down the jumper is having a snowball effect with the rest of the offense.
He refuses to place blame on anyone other than himself and his inability to make shots is taking it’s toll.
“A lot, especially mentally the last couple of weeks,” Belinelli said of how frustrating this stretch has been. “Especially with my shooting.”
Teams are calling, but so far, the Kings have said no thank you. Fixing Belinelli is a lot easier than finding another player with his skill set. The laws of averages say he’ll come around, but in the meantime, Karl has no choice but to use a four or five player approach at the shooting guard spot.