Marco Belinelli is averaging more shots per game than he has since 2011-12, when he started almost the entire season with New Orleans.
Kings coach George Karl believes he can get more production from one of his favorite reserves.
“He’s an explosive scorer off the bench, and we haven’t gotten him loose as much as I’d like to get him loose,” Karl said before Thursday’s 116-109 loss to the Miami Heat.
Belinelli responded with a team-high 23 points in 26 minutes against Miami. He shot 5 of 10 from three-point range (5 of 11 overall) and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Entering Thursday’s game, Belinelli was averaging 9.8 shots. That was fifth on the Kings behind DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison.
Belinelli averaged a career-high 10.4 shots for New Orleans in 2011-12, but if he is going to get loose more, the Kings need him to shoot the way he did Thursday.
Belinelli was shooting just 35.6 percent entering the game. Karl has even joked that Belinelli sometimes takes “Kings” shots rather than “Spurs” shots.
A Spurs shot is a good shot that comes in the flow of the offense. Belinelli signed with the Kings after playing for the Spurs and winning a championship in 2014.
A Kings shot is the opposite. It’s forced, often because of one player trying to do too much.
Karl’s faith in Belinelli, however, remains strong.
“I think he’s one of those guys who can have a 12-point quarter for you and lift the team,” Karl said. “If you get off to a bad start, he can come in and bring you energy, and I think our bench has done a good job of that all year.”
One reason Ben McLemore’s minutes will be down, even when he plays well, is Karl likes having Belinelli on the floor, especially late in games.
Karl sees Belinelli as a good decision maker.
“A lot of nights, he’s going to be on the court when the buzzer goes off,” Karl said.
Intentional fouls – Karl was asked how he felt about intentionally fouling bad free-throw shooters.
What was first called the Hack-a-Shaq, aimed to stop former Lakers and Heat star Shaquille O’Neal, is now the Hack-a-(add name of any bad free-throw shooter).
“I don’t know how you (eliminate) it,” Karl said. “I’m kind of old-school from the standpoint if a guy doesn’t make free throws. I don’t like how the game is played when that occurs. It slows it down and kind of makes it a boring game.”
That doesn’t mean Karl is above using the strategy to stop an opponent’s momentum. He did so earlier this season against Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
And the Heat’s starting center, Hassan Whiteside, entered Thursday shooting 47.2 percent this season.
“I can’t deny we talked about it (Thursday) afternoon,” Karl said.