Affectionately known as “Delly,” Matthew Dellavedova is one of the handful of Australians to make it into the NBA. Following a college basketball career on the Saint Mary’s Gaels (where his play earned him the all-time record for, well, practically everything), the 6’4” point guard joined the Cavaliers earlier this year and is currently on an unforeseeably stellar rookie run.
At first, the ever-scrappy albeit underused Delly started off playing Cleveland’s filler minutes. However, he quickly caught the eye of fans and team management alike after coach Mike Brown put him on the floor, seemingly for kicks, in a Nov. 16 game against the Wizards. With great energy, Delly helped turn the tide in the last 18 minutes of the game for a 103-96, losing streak-killing victory. That’s when we found out that the guy can move—we’re pretty sure he never stops, actually—providing masterful screens and hard play on both ends of the court. Now, the rookie’s already starting games, leaving fans eagerly awaiting the next step of his NBA development. We caught up with Dellavedova to talk about the challenges of pro play, bonding with his new teammates and, of course, enjoying Australian meat pies.
BALLnROLL: Hi, Matthew! How are you enjoying your rookie season?
Matthew Dellavedova: I’ve been enjoying it a lot, I’ve definitely been learning a lot from the coaches and the other players, and hopefully we can get some more wins coming up.
BnR: As far as learning from other players goes, have you had the chance to connect with anyone in particular on the team, has anyone taken you under their wing?
MD: Andy Varejao has kind of put me and Sergei [Karasev] under his wing a bit, you know, off the court, looking after us and stuff. And then on the court, you know, it’s been Alonzo Gee who’s been giving me lots of tips, and Jarrett Jack as well.
BnR: It sounds like you’re fitting in with the rest of the guys. You’re turning into a bit of a sensation—some headlines are calling you a surprise star on the Cavs. How do you feel about the sudden media attention?
BnR: Speaking of helping out, you’re getting a rep as an exceptional facilitator, surprising some by how good you are at screening. Being used as a defending player recently, you freeze and disable defenders well, you pass well. How do you feel about still getting a chance to fulfill this kind of role on your team?
MD: Well, I haven’t really had much of a chance to play point guard, which is my natural position—it’s who I am—but, I mean, when I’m out there, I try to set my teammates up because that’s what I’ve been doing in college and in international when I played for Australia. Whatever is the best shot, whether that’s for me or the team, that’s what I’m going to try to do.
BnR: Now that you’re in the NBA, what are some of your biggest challenges going from college ball to the big leagues?
MD: I think the size, speed and athleticism of defenders, [how that] cuts down on driving lanes, passing lanes and decision making time, offensively. Defensively, it’s more complex than I thought it would be in regards to different coverages, bouncing off the ball and knowing when to help your teammates, but I think I’m really learning a lot on that end as well and picking it up so far.
BnR: Can you give us some specific examples?
MD: Sure, one big difference is how many games you play. One thing that kind of surprised me is that you can play in one city, and then you’re flying to another and you’re playing the next night. You can’t afford to get too high or low mentally, so you just try to keep an even, level head, no matter what happens the night before, because you’ve got another game to play the next night. That’s a big adjustment as well.
MD: The older guys, they look after us pretty well, so I think we’re pretty lucky. On opening night, Jarrett Jack took us to get some interesting suits fitted that were a bit more colourful than your normal, traditional suit, with top hats, shoes and everything, so that was a bit of fun. On game days, we have to get [them] donuts—we just have a bit of a rotation system to we make sure we don’t forget them.
BnR: Sounds like a great pre-game snack. About back home: for the NBA, there are some really great Australian players, most notably Andrew Bogut. But to date, there have only been 12 players, including you, that the country’s born and raised. Do you feel like you have anything to prove for your country as an Australian who’s made it to the NBA?
MD: I’m definitely very proud of where I come from, the players that came before from Australia and the history that’s there. I’m always trying to represent Australia in a positive way, and I think that it’s great that we’ve got four [current] players in the league right now from Australia. Hopefully at the upcoming world championships in Spain we can win a medal because that’s our goal going forward as the national team, and we’re all looking forward to that.
BnR: One of the things that Aussies over here miss most about home are the delicious meat pies. Have you found any decent ones over here?
BnR: What sports other than basketball do you get involved in, maybe even some Australian rules football?
MD: Yeah, I used to play when I was younger and then every time I’m home, I make sure to go and watch a game live. [I] try to keep up with it as much as I can over here watching it online. That’s the main one. I’ve [also] been to a couple of baseball games every year, and then I actually went to the World Series last year [to see] the Giants. I also went to an MLS soccer game, it was a playoff game between the sharks and the Galaxy, which was cool. [Most recently,] I went to my first NFL football game with the Rams the other day. I love sports.
BnR: If it weren’t for basketball, which one of those would you be playing?
MD: It would be Australian rules football.
BnR: Alright, tying in with the holiday season: what’s the one thing you want most for Christmas?
MD: Well, my family is coming over to spend Christmas here, so I’m happy that they can come over and spend [some time] with me.
BnR: Is there anything else that we haven’t asked that you’d like to add?
MD: You could give Saint Mary’s a shout out: they’re 7-0 at the start of the season, so yeah, [if] you can give them a bit of love that would be good, because they don’t usually get too much press and they’re going well so far!
BnR: Thanks for your time, Matt!