Marco Belinelli said he has repeated himself 100 times about how his love of basketball obviously means he would love to play as much as possible.
He got what he wanted Saturday night.
Richard Hamilton returned from injury to the starting lineup, Belinelli's playing time wasn't diminished much as he scored a game-high 17 points in 33 minutes in the Bulls' 87-77 victory over the Wizards before a crowd of 22,447 at the United Center.
"I think what's more important is confidence in myself," he said. "The first couple of weeks of the season I didn't have much. Now it's different."
The Bulls' belief in Belinelli is better than that. On a night when they shot only 39.1 percent as a team, his 7 of 16 marksmanship was essential.
"I thought Marco was terrific," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He has been playing well for a long time. He hit big shots and made big plays."
The Bulls needed a lift after losing back-to-back games. But they still struggled against the Wizards, the NBA's worst team with a 4-24 overall record, 1-13 record on the road.
The Wizards, playing without injured leading scorer Jordan Crawford, shot only 36.5 percent but kept the Bulls within reach most of the game. They led by eight points in the first quarter and trailed only 79-76 with 5 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.
After that, Belinelli hit a 3-pointer and the Bulls locked in defensively, holding the Wizards without a field goal.
"Right now, we're not playing our best basketball, but we just found a way," Joakim Noah said. "It was a good win for us."
Hamilton played after missing 12 games with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, finishing with nine points in almost 15 minutes.
"I thought he had a pretty good rhythm going," Thibodeau said. "That was a big plus."
Deng also returned from a right ankle injury that he sustained in the Christmas loss to the Rockets. He scored 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting.
The Bulls consider the victory a step forward after losing back-to-back games to the Rockets and Hawks. "The win was huge," Deng said.
Deng sat much of the fourth quarter, but Thibodeau said that was because he liked the lineup he at the time and not because of Deng's injury.
"It's good," Deng said of his ankle. "I'm glad I'm back on the court."
Belinelli's role going forward is undetermined, Thibodeau said. But it's clear he values Hamilton, a 14-year veteran, returning to the court.
"I am not sure yet," Thibodeau said of Belinelli's role. "We are going to go back and forth. 'Rip' was good today, taking everything into consideration. We need his minutes, we need his shots, and we need his points."
Belinelli scores 17 off bench in Bulls' 87-77 win