Hawks buy out Belinelli, get more minutes for young players

Feb 09, 2018
ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Feb 06, 2018 Atlanta: the bench and did not play against the Grizzlies in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The Hawks bought out the contract of Marco Belinelli and the veteran shooting guard will be a free agent after he clears waivers.

The Hawks held Belinelli, the veteran reserve shooting guard, out of Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies and he did not travel with the team for Thursday’s game at the Magic as the team considered several trade options ahead of the NBA trade deadline.

In the end, the Hawks did not find an acceptable trade and began discussions about a buyout.

The Hawks announced that Belinelli had been waived less than two hours before the team hosted the Cavaliers on Friday. It became clear, as was reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier in the day, that team and player were close to a finalizing a buyout.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the move was made to give young players more minutes and to give Belinelli an opportunity to play meaningful games for a playoff contender. Budenholzer said rookie Tyler Dorsey, who has been playing more recently, will be the primary beneficiary of the extra minutes.

“It was the right thing for both of us,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve been playing Tyler Dorsey and some of the younger guys more recently and we’d like to do more of that down the stretch here. Obviously, it’s a time where Marco can help a team that is in a different situation than we are.”

Budenholzer added that DeAndre Bembry, once healthy, Malcolm Delaney and Isaiah Taylor could also see more time.

Belinelli appeared in 52 games for the Hawks this season, including one start, and averaged 11.4 points in 23.3 minutes. He shot .372 from 3-point range.

Belinelli, who is in his 11th season, was traded to the Hawks from the Hornets on June 20, 2017 as part of the Dwight Howard deal.

Belinelli was in the final year of his contract and is due $6.6 million this season.

“I want to say Marco was great for us,” Budenholzer said. “He was a great teammate. He’s a great teammate and smart. Wherever he ends up, he’s going to help that team. I enjoyed coaching him.”

Belinelli was not at Philips Arena Friday night.

There has been speculation that the Hawks could also buy out the contract of Ersan Ilyasova. The starting forward has the ability to decline any trade and did so to several before the deadline. Ilyasova told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday that he has not been approached about a buyout. He reiterated that he is happy to remain with the Hawks.

Ilyasova signed a one-year, $6 million contract to return to the Hawks as an unrestricted free agent. Ilyasova can decline a trade because of his contract status because of his status as a year away from full Bird rights.