Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova ready for big role as NBA championship hunt begins

Two years ago Matthew Dellavedova was fighting it out for the last roster spot with NBA club Cleveland Cavaliers.

The team was a struggling one still reeling from the loss of superstar LeBron James and trying to climb up from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

But when the NBA season tips off on Tuesday, the 25-year-old Maryborough boy will be in his third NBA campaign and will most likely be starting point guard for the Cavaliers alongside James as they chase the club’s first NBA championship.

Last year the Cavaliers, empowered by James’ return, the signing of Kevin Love and several in-season trades, stormed to the NBA Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors including Boomers’ teammate Andrew Bogut.

Dellavedova became an overnight star for his determined display as replacement point guard following a knee injury to star guard Kyrie Irving, and during the offseason he earned a pay rise to USD$1.147 million dollars for this season, the last of his current contract.

As he stands alongside the world’s best player and plays in one of the NBA’s most scrutinised teams, “Delly” couldn’t resist thinking back to those sleepless nights in 2013 as he waited to learn if he had made the Cavs’ roster.

“I was kinda thinking the other day about how quick it has gone,” Dellavedova said.

“I’m already starting year three when this time two years ago I was battling and trying to fight for the last spot on the roster.

“It’s nice to know I’ve improved a lot and my situation is a bit more solid, I want to keep moving in that direction and keep building on the first two years.

“I think it makes you appreciate the opportunity you have and you want to make the most of it.”

Irving’s knee injury is reportedly progressing well but he is still expected to miss the opening month or two meaning Dellavedova will likely be playing 25 or more minutes most nights alongside free agent signing Mo Williams, a high-scoring point guard who some thought was signed to replace Delly.

Instead the pair have started to play well together and could see some time playing as “dual point guards” – especially while Irving is out.

“I think I’m big enough to guard shooting guards and it’s pretty effective having two point guards out there,” Dellavedova said.

“But we will have to see what happens when Kyrie comes back and how much he plays when he starts backs.

“It’s up in the air right now but hopefully Mo Williams and myself can do a good job in running the team before he gets back healthy.”

Few people thought Dellavedova would ever have a training camp where he wasn’t fighting for his job but his fearless hustle has endeared him to local fans and the Cavs.

There are some concerns he could be forced to look at other options once he hits free agency at the end of the season as the Cavaliers already have a large commitment in long term salaries so may not be able to pay Delly as well as other clubs should he have another strong season.

Should he go into free agency, Dellavedova will face a squeeze to get his contract sorted out without missing any of the Boomers’ Rio Olympic preparations.

Traditionally NBA players stay in the US until they have signed their contracts, but Delly has always put the Boomers’ ahead of all other commitments.

When he was fighting for his first spot with the Cavs he flew home to Australia to play in two Boomers’ games against New Zealand, although he hopes he can sort out his future quickly.

“The way you try to deal with it is to block it out and focus on this job with the Cavs,” Dellavedova said.

“If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing for the Cavs then it should all take care of itself.

“It’s going to be a busy year, hopefully with a run into the playoffs then go straight into Rio preparations with free agency tucked in there.”

The Cavaliers didn’t specifically ask Dellavedova to improve his offensive play, but he believes he has made good strides, as shown by him having four double-figure scoring nights in the club’s six preseason games.

“I’ve worked hard on it and I’m coming off the role I play with the Boomers in which I need to be more aggressive in looking to score and create,” Dellavedova said.

“That has carried over to the Cavs in the preseason and I hope it’s something I can continue throughout the year.”

His newfound public profile saw him earn several new Australian endorsements and he is represented at home by Bogut’s company, One Management.

Among those deals is an ambassador role with Spalding, which supplies NBA game balls and was his ball of choice when growing up.

Bogut has playfully complained that Dellavedova was earning more endorsements than he was, although Delly disputes that claim and thanked the big man for “letting him” have the Spalding deal.

With the Cavs bringing back players from injury, Dellavedova said the team was still finding its rhythm but he hoped he could excel in an enhanced role.

“Anytime when you know you are going to get pretty consistent minutes you play with a little more freedom and can go out there and be more aggressive,” Dellavedova said.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully I can make the most of it.”

By: Roy Ward, Sydney Morning Herald

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