Basketball

The 2015 NBA Champion on the physicality of the Australian game. By Richard Cooke.

Hello, Delly! Matthew Dellavedova, 24, basketballer

Matthew Dellavedova
Credit: BASKETBALL AUSTRALIA

It was a bit awkward to hear fans chanting my name. But it definitely meant a lot that they appreciated the hard work I was putting in out there. They had my back, so it was a pretty cool experience. I just wasn’t sure quite how to react.

In the US, the media have a lot more access to players. I think that’s one of the things the NBA has done a really good job with, making it so open and accessible. The media can be in the locker room before the game, after the game, after practice, so there’s a lot of access over there.

That’s the beauty of having guys like LeBron [James] and Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin Love on your team. They cop most of it, and you can just slide right out. You don’t get stuck with many questions too often.

When I started to get more media attention, the main thing was not to pay attention to that extra stuff. You just focus on what you have to do and what your job is and how to prepare for the next game. You never want to get too high, and you never want to get too low. You’re never as good as the media says, and hopefully never as bad, either. Just because it’s on a bigger stage, [the attention] is not really going to change me.

I didn’t really feel the difference until I was back in Melbourne. In Cleveland all the players get recognised because it’s a smaller city. But the past couple of days a couple of people have recognised me; that probably wouldn’t have happened last year.

Basketball’s a contact sport. Physicality’s part of the game and I think if they tuned in over in America to the series between New Zealand and Australia, they’d see it’s traditionally been very, very physical. A lot more physical than the NBA.

Growing up in Australia, every kid is taught from a young age that the ball is the most valuable thing. You’d better go out and try to win it. That holds true in Australian football and pretty much all sports really.

After the finals series, I didn’t buy a new car. But there were a couple of autographs and photos and stuff. I just relaxed with my family and girlfriend and played some board games, went back to the St Mary’s area [in California] where I played college basketball and just caught up with some old coaches and old friends.

I haven’t noticed a change in the way people treat me. The people who I hang out with, my friends and family, treat me the same as they always have, and I try to do the same. I’m still the same person.

LeBron and I have a good relationship. I think we connect pretty well on the court. He’s obviously the best player in the world and I think he’s one of the smartest players as well. He’s probably underrated on that intelligence. That’s the thing you have to be around on a daily basis to get a real feel for. He works really hard, and I think it’s been great so far just watching him and learning and picking up little things.

In the NBA that’s magnified as well. When you get to the playoffs, the scouts, the report you get on the other team, on what players they like to run and what the players’ tendencies are, you have to be really locked in to that and then the game plan is a lot more specific. So I think that comes out a lot more during playoffs time.

You’re never going to be able to stop a player like Steph Curry, you’ve just got to try to limit them. You can’t get discouraged when they make a shot because that’s what they do and that’s why they’re the best. You just have to keep defending them and making it harder. He’s got unbelievable touch and ball-handling ability. That’s what makes him so dangerous.

Next season I’ll be working on my finishing around the basket. Improving my overall athleticism and my three-point shot. I’ve improved a lot the past few years; still have a lot of room to improve.

[Boomers assistant coach] Luc Longley has been great for me and the boys. You can bounce ideas off him and just pick his brain, because he’s been through it and done it, so it’s been great having him around.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 22, 2015 as "Hello, Delly!". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.

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