Vegas Vocation

Matthew Delladova Returns to Sin City Ready to Rumble
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer

One year ago, when the Wine and Gold were in Vegas for 2013 Summer League, most of the media was still just trying to spell his last name correctly while wondering: Why does this Dellavedova kid wear a boxer’s mouthpiece?

Then we watched him play and it became completely clear.

By the time last Summer League rolled around, the Cavaliers knew very well how to spell Dellavedova's last name. He starred at St. Mary’s College in California and in the 2012 Olympics with his Australian national squad. He was the guy whose 3-on-3 team didn’t lose in pre-Draft workouts – even when he was “traded” to the other team.

Still, it was no sure thing that he’d make the team later that fall. He’d have to scrap, scratch and claw his way onto Cleveland’s NBA roster. And that was just fine by Delly. When Jarrett Jack suffered a knee injury in preseason, it gave him all the opportunity he’d need to make the squad.

The antagonistic Aussie did more than just make the team. He saw action in 72 games – starting four and tallying double-digits in 13. By the time the All-Star Break rolled around, he was a fixture in Cleveland’s rotation, averaging over 22 minutes a game over the last two months of the season. During that stretch, Delly turned in back-to-back double-doubles off the bench and dropped 21 points – going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc – in a thrilling March 26 road win over the Pistons.

One year later, the modest man from a land down-under is the Summer League’s squad’s head of the snake.

“I definitely feel like I’m one of the leaders of this team, and I’m trying to do a good job with that and as a point guard try to make sure that everybody knows what they’re doing and in the right spot and get everyone involved,” said Delly. “I’m trying to do a good job with that.”

In three starts this summer, Delly’s averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 boards and 4.6 assists per contest. The Cavs guard has done a little bit of everything so far in Vegas – except lose.

He and Will Cherry took over the fourth quarter in Friday’s comeback win over Milwaukee. He took a backseat to the Will Cherry Show on Sunday afternoon versus San Antonio. And he led everyone with 19 points to keep the Cavaliers undefeated in Monday’s victory over the Sixers.

He and Cherry had been waging epic battle during the two-a-days leading up to the Summer League opener. As much as they both crave competition, they were each ready to see a different colored jersey by last Friday night.

“(The point guard competition)’s been good,” said Dellavedova. “He was good in the Milwaukee game and obviously (Cherry) had a really good game (Sunday) night, but he’s been defending well and pushing the pace and it’s been fun.”

Delly hasn’t slowed down since the 2012-12 season wrapped up. Before departing for Summer League, he’s been a regular at Cleveland Clinic Courts – looking to build upon a freshman campaign filled with individual highlights.

In a pair of games against Houston and OKC, he became the first player to record consecutive point-assist double-doubles off the bench since John Morton in 1991. Less than a week later, Delly canned five treys in a dramatic win in Motown and four more bombs – plus a career-high 12 assists – in a blowout win over the Pistons in Cleveland. Only New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. hit more three-pointers as a rookie off the bench than Dellavedova – the only non-first-rounder in the top five.

And maybe most important stat from last season: the Wine and Gold were +70 with him on the floor, tops on the team.

Delly is quick to give credit to Mike Brown and his staff for taking a shot on him last year. But he’s also thriving under new head coach David Blatt, who coached against him with the Russian national squad during the 2012 Olympics in London.

”I really have enjoyed it so far,” said Cleveland’s 6-4, 190-pound point guard. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot already, and you know exactly what he wants. It’s been fun so far and I’m looking forward to learning more and more from him. He’s got a good sense of humor, but I think he’s really a good teacher of the game as well.”

After wrapping up Summer League, it’ll be back to international competition for Dellavedova, who’ll play for his Australian national team this summer in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

“Well, we’ve lost Patty (Mills) with the shoulder surgery and that really sucks for him,” lamented Delly. “I was really looking forward to playing with him. But our goal is still to win a medal. Obviously, the U.S. is good, Spain’s really good. We’re really looking forward to that and seeing what we can do there.”

Along with the rest of Cleveland’s Summer squad, he was in the gym for morning shootaround when the team got word that LeBron James was making his triumphant return to the North Coast. And like the rest of the team, he couldn’t get the smile off his face when talking about it.

”Well obviously it’s exciting for the team and the city,” said Delly. “He’s the best player in the world. And I’m just looking forward to just watching how hard he works and learning a lot from him.”

That education will come in a couple months. In the meantime, Delly has led the Cavaliers to a spotless record in Summer League as tournament play tips off on Wednesday. He didn’t come all the way out to Sin City to play slots.

"It’s all business out here,” he concluded. “And then I’ll go back and get ready for the World Championships.”

The man famously labeled the team’s “pit bull” will be bringing his boxer’s mouthpiece. The international competition might want to do the same.