If there were a definition of a typical Australian basketballer, Matthew Dellavedova would fit the description. Hard working, cerebral and tough: these are the qualities that have earned the Boomers’ point guard regular rotation minutes in the world’s best league, and the praise of head coaches and analysts alike.
His exposure, and performances, on the international stage have helped ‘Delly’ find his niche in the NBA quicker than most rookies. He understands that hard work and a willingness to keep learning will be the keys to longevity.
“Delly’s been great. You like his toughness – not just his physical toughness, but his mental toughness is off the charts. He’s got to be one of the toughest guys that I’ve ever been around,” Cavs’ coach Mike Brown told Basketball Australia in Brooklyn on January 4.
“He asked me early in the season ‘Coach, what do I need to work on to be effective in this league?’ A guy like that you’re excited for any type of success in this league. He’s a guy that probably should have been drafted; now he’s come over and proven that he can play in this league.”
Basketball Australia caught up with Dellavedova at Madison Square Garden last week to check in on how his rookie campaign has been progressing.
Basketball Australia: We’re past the halfway point of your rookie NBA season. How have you found things so far?
Matthew Dellavedova: It’s definitely been a learning experience. Everything’s pretty new at the start, but I’ve settled into a routine now. It’s important to get into a routine so you know what you’ve got coming up [but] try to continue getting better each day.
BA: The Cavs had been pegged as a potential playoff team during preseason, but obviously you’re well below .500 now. What’s the feeling in the locker room amongst the group?
MD: We’re definitely looking to make a push towards the playoffs. It’s pretty crazy that we’re only two games out [of the last playoff seed] or whatever it is, but we’ve gotta make the most of the opportunity that’s there and hopefully get on a bit of a run and put some good games together.
BA: How have you personally adjusted to losing games on a regular basis? You’ve come from successful programs at St. Mary’s, plus national team duty as well. It must be hard.
MD: Well, you never want to get used to it, that’s for sure. It’s one of the toughest things coming in and losing the amount of games we have, especially coming from St. Mary’s and playing with the national team. Sometimes, if it’s a bad game, you have to try and forget about it ‘cause you have another game coming up the next night so you gotta have a short memory as well.
BA: A lot of rookies have mentioned that to me that they’ve had to learn to forget about the bad losses. Is that something you had to teach yourself?
MD: Yeah. I mean, you have to learn not to get too high, or too low. You always want to stay level-headed, but in college you’re only playing two games a week and there’s only thirty-something games a season, so each game is really valuable if you want to make the tournament at the end of the year. There are a lot of highs-and-lows there, but in the NBA there’s 82-games so you don’t want to burn out mentally, so you try to stay as low as you can – which is a bit of an adjustment.
BA: Speaking of the 82-game schedule. Everyone talks about a ‘rookie wall.’ Have you found yourself fatigued, or hitting that wall?
MD: No. I mean, I think you have to make sure you’re getting enough rest, stay with your routine of working out; getting your treatment and massages, cold tubs and things like that. You don’t want to overdo your workouts, you want to be consistent and get a bit of work I each day. By the end of the season it adds up to a lot.
BA: I’ve spoken to Mike Brown about your work ethic and he’s praised your willingness to learn. 76ers coach Brett Brown has also said great things about you. How does it feel to hear praise like that from those types of established NBA guys?
MD: It’s always good to know the coach recognises that [hard work] and that it matters. At each level it gives you a chance to continue on to the next level ‘cause you always want to try keep improving. You always want to be ready for a bigger role, or for when bigger minutes come your way.
You want to prepare for that, rather than what you currently have, because if [you’re satisfied] with what you currently have, you’re just gonna stay there.
BA: Obviously when the American players come into a city like New York and an arena like Madison Square Garden they get a little extra pumped up for the game. As an Australian does it mean anything extra special to you to play in a building like this given its history?
MD: I really don’t know the history of it like some of the other guys in the room, but I’m looking forward to playing here. You can’t get caught up in all that kind of stuff because we just need to get a win to kind of close in on the standings.
BA: Cleveland is a small market but it sustains three professional sports teams. What kind of reception do you get personally from the fans there? We’ve seen how passionate they are about the team.
MD: It’s been really great so far. Everyone’s been really welcoming. The fans are really passionate about the team. I think our fans are some of the most passionate in the league, and when you see someone around town they’re encouraging and say ‘keep working hard and doing what you’re doing.’ It’s nice to know they appreciate that.
BA: I read recently you’re big on ducking out pre-game and having dinner in the media dining rooms of arenas. How did that trait come about?
MD: Well, the rookies – there’s three or four of us – we get to the stadium like two-and-a-half hours before a game and we have our [last] meal after shoot-around then we come and work out here. We kind of need another meal. We can take a sandwich or banana from shoot-around but a lot of the stadiums have a nice media room so I usually go eat in one of those. It’s usually pretty good food.
In Cleveland we have the family room – it’s usually pretty good so it’s become a part of the routine.
BA: Last question. There’s talk that LeBron James would consider coming back to Cleveland. Hypothetically, if Cavs’ management asked you to help convince him to come back, what would you say to him?
MD: [Laughs] I don’t think they’d be coming to me to do that, but obviously he’s a great player. He’s the best player in the world —
BA: You’d love to have him as a teammate?
MD: Yeah. It’d be a nice target to throw some passes to, but it’s all speculation. It’s more fun for you guys in the media to write about!