Sacramento Kings

‘A little starstruck’: Two Kings make Belinelli’s list of best Europeans he’s faced

Marco Belinelli has played for nine NBA teams, including the Kings. In a post on The Players Tribune, he praises two other former Kings.
Marco Belinelli has played for nine NBA teams, including the Kings. In a post on The Players Tribune, he praises two other former Kings.

Marco Belinelli has seen a lot in the NBA.

On Monday, the 3-point specialist who’s in his 11th season joined the Philadelphia 76ers days after accepting a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks.

Belinelli is joining his ninth NBA team. He spent the 2015-16 season with the Kings before being traded for the 22nd pick of the 2016 draft, which was used on recently traded shooting guard Malachi Richardson.

Belinelli may not have had a great season as a King – he shot a career-worst 38.6 percent overall, including a career-low 30.6 percent on 3-pointers – but he recently showed his respect for two of the organization’s former players.

Belinelli calls Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu two of “The Five Best European Players I’ve Ever Faced” in a post on The Players Tribune, a site that publishes first-person stories from athletes in all sports.

JV Hedo and Dirk
Kings forward Hedo Turkoglu defends Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals May 13, 2003, in Dallas. Jose Luis Villegas Sacramento Bee file

Of the two former Kings, he started with Turkoglu, who was his No. 2 pick.

“When I first met Hedo, I’ll admit, I was a little starstruck,” Belinelli wrote. “I’d grown up watching him compete for Turkey, and I’d always looked up to his all-around game. ...

“When he and I both played for Toronto, I’d always try to pair up with him in practice. He took me under his wing.”

He shared stories about them playing one-on-one and talked about how clever Turkoglu was on the court – but made sure to add one thing.

“He still could never touch my shot, though.”

Kings forward Peja Stojakovic, right, shares a laugh with San Antonio Spurs forward Hedo Turkoglu on Feb. 6, 2004, at Arco Arena. They were Kings teammates from 2000-03. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

Belinelli, who talks about his shooting ability throughout the post, had high praise for Stojakovic, his No. 3 choice.

“I was a bricklayer compared to Peja,” Belinelli wrote. “Peja was another guy that I had watched in Europe, but I never really got to know him until we both were in New Orleans. But early on during my time there, during a practice, Peja challenged me to a 3-point contest. For fun.

He kicked my ass” and added another expletive in marveling at Stojakovic’s shooting prowess.

He then discussed their reunion with the Kings.

“Years later, I got to work with Peja again in Sacramento, but this time he wasn’t on my team – he was in the front office. And he is just the best person. He has taught me so much about how to be a professional and how to carve out a career in this league. I’m not sure I’d still be playing in the NBA if it weren’t for him.”

Dallas Mavericks veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki was first on his list. He admits to cheating with his other two choices: Anthony Parker, an American who was a EuroLeague star, and Manu Ginobili, an Argentine who once played in Italy for Virtus Bologna, Belinelli’s hometown team. Ginobili is currently in his 16th season with the San Antonio Spurs.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee