After a miserable preseason, Bulls shooting guard Marco Belinelli is starting to contribute.
He scored 13 points in Saturday's loss to New Orleans. Through three regular-season games, he's averaging 9.0 points and shooting 50 percent from the field, which is closer to what the Bulls had in mind when they signed him as a free agent this summer.
Extra motivation never hurts, and Belinelli admitted he was hoping to play well against the Hornets, where he spent the last two seasons.
"Maybe one of the reasons was for sure that I play against my old team," he said in the locker room. "Everyone wants to play well against their old team. That's part of the game, but at the same time I'm mad that we lost this game."
The Bulls got off to a slow start against New Orleans and never took the lead in the second half, even though the largest deficit was 10 points.
During the preseason, Belinelli often seemed lost on the floor. He shot 29.4 percent and averaged 4.1 points.
Maybe it was just a matter of time before he grew comfortable with a new team.
"I don't want to think about the preseason," he said. "Now it's important to get ready and play well. I just need to come into the game and be aggressive. That's what I need to do every time."
Bulls can't make transition:
One specialty of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is finding fault in an aspect of the game that few others noticed.
Following the 89-82 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, he picked on the Bulls' transition defense, even though they outscored the Hornets 21-17 in fastbreak points.
"The thing that bothered me was our approach to defensive transition," Thibodeau said. "When you're not shooting well, you can't allow that to sap your energy as far as getting back, setting your defense.
"When you're missing layups, whether you're complaining to an official or jogging back or whatever it might be, that's something you have to guard against.
"You still have to sprint back. The points that we gave them in transition were really the difference in the game.
"If a mistake does occur -- whether it be a turnover or missed shot, whatever it may be -- sprint back and get it back. That's got to be our mentality."
Thibs wants to attack:
The Bulls didn't shoot well at all Saturday. They were 33 percent overall, hit 3 of 17 shots from 3-point range and were credited with 19-of-43 shooting inside the paint.
They missed a number of fastbreak chances, but that often was because the Hornets hustled back, contested shots and secured rebounds.
"We're going to have to take it stronger," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "One of the things we've done well to this point is we made the officials make calls. I thought we did a lot of flipping (shots) tonight instead of attacking.
"So we have to attack. We have to cut harder. We have to get the ball moving side to side. There were plenty of opportunities for second shots.
"Usually, that's one of our strengths. I thought we were standing and watching a whole lot."