Nicolo Melli takes a layup vs. Oklahoma City

New Orleans rookie Nicolò Melli happy to receive surprise, last-minute invite to Rising Stars game

by Jim Eichenhofer

Nicolò Melli just may be the first person who’s OK with being forced to delay a vacation to the Bahamas.

As the NBA All-Star break approached, Melli was all set to head to some warm beaches with his wife this weekend, but he learned Thursday morning that he was a late addition to the World Team at the Rising Stars game in Chicago. Suddenly his initial plan, which had been in the works for a while, went out the window.

“I had to change everything,” Melli said of his travel and accommodations, “but it’s OK. I’m very happy I had to change it. It’s the All-Star (weekend). It might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m going to enjoy it.”

The 29-year-old native of Italy joked that he immediately did research to make sure he isn’t the oldest player in the history of the Rising Stars event, which exclusively features first- and second-year NBA players. According to Melli, he is not the oldest of all time, despite his unusual age for a rookie in the league.

“You’re in Rising Stars and everyone is 19, 20, maybe 22, and you’re 29, it makes it even more exciting for me,” he said.

Asked what his approach will be to playing against Team USA forward Zion Williamson instead of with him, Melli smiled and responded, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to play defense in this game. Everyone is going to try to enjoy the day and have as much fun as possible.”

Although his Bahamas trip was delayed, it was only postponed. He noted that he still is planning to get to the Bahamas during the NBA All-Star break with his wife – the trip will just be slightly shorter.

“I’m still going to the Bahamas,” Melli emphasized.

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