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Marco Belinelli says he passed up money to sign with the San Antonio Spurs

Jan 21, 2014, 5:39 PM EDT

Marco Belinelli AP

Marco Belinelli, explaining how the San Antonio Spurs pitched him during free agency last summer, recalled three factors. In the order Belinelli listed them:

1. Chance to win a championship

2. Money

3. Support to improve his game

Belinelli is certainly getting No. 1. The Spurs are 32-9, best in the Western Conference.

No. 3 has happened, too. Shooting 69-for-138 (50 percent) on 3-pointers, Belinelli having – by far – the best season of his career.

No. 2? That’s a little more complicated. Belinelli is doing fine, making $2,750,000 this season and $2,873,750 next. If he keeps playing like this, he’s in line for a big raise. But if he joined a different team than the Spurs, perhaps he could have gotten a higher salary this year.

Dan McCarney of Spurs Nation:

Belinelli, meanwhile, said he had more lucrative offers than the two-year, $5.6-million deal he would eventually sign with the Spurs. But the opportunity to play for one of the best teams in the NBA, alongside long-time idol Manu Ginobili, was too good to pass up.

“I know money is important,” he said. “But I’m a young guy and I want to improve my game. Money will come. I just want to win.”

Passing up money in free agency during his prime to play for a winner? That sounds an awful lot like another player many fans hate.

The scope is different, but there’s really no difference, in this regard, between Belinelli and LeBron James. We should all understand that each used free agency, a legitimate tool for players, to put themselves in the best-possible position based on what they value.

Because of those decisions, a Spurs-Heat NBA Finals rematch is quite possible. For Belinelli and LeBron more money will be there later – if they want it. In the meantime, they’re just two guys who put winning ahead of dollar signs.

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