Matthew Dellavedova on LeBron, Wiggins, Bennett and the Westside Market

Matthew Dellavedova was an undrafted rookie from Saint Mary’s College who was trying to prove he belonged on an NBA roster last summer. Earlier this month, he returned to Las Vegas after logging 1,271 minutes during the regular season as a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal told SLAM Magazine recently that Dellavedova was among the three toughest one-on-one defenders in the NBA–along with Iman Shumpert and Tony Allen.

That defensive effort and intensity is what earned the Australian native a spot in the rotation this past season for Cleveland. But he also finished third among all rookies in three-point field goal percentage while appearing in 72 games.

During three summer league starts for Coach David Blatt, Delly has averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 boards and 4.6 assists per night. He’s also helped the young Cavs to a 3-0 record before heading overseas to help his Australian National Team prepare for the FIBA World Championships.

Just before he flew back to Australia, Dellavedova talked with about the whirlwind summer for his Cavaliers.

StepienRules: After going through your rookie season, what is one of the biggest things you learned about how to prepare for the NBA grind?

Matthew Dellavedova: The thing I probably learned the most is how important it is to take care of your body. That’s one of the things I really learned during my first season in the league. I try to eat healthy and I’m always looking for ways to improve my body in order to give myself a chance to perform my best on the court. Diet plays a big role in that for me. So I enjoy making smoothies, and I’ve enjoyed going to the Westside Market to get all of my fresh fruits and vegetables.

SR: Speaking of the Westside Market, how was your first summer in Cleveland? What other places were you checking out around the city?

MD: I really enjoyed the summer in Cleveland. It was cool to see some of the spots I hadn’t been to before. I went to the Canal Towpath, rode my bike down and took the train back and that was cool. I also went to Whiskey Island to watch some beach volleyball. I went running with some people I train with down at Edgewater Park and after that we went over to watch the sand volleyball. It’s nice over there. I also did a lot of biking around the city as well. It’s been great to get the chance to see all the different things in Cleveland.

SR: You’re out in Vegas now playing for Coach David Blatt. What are some of your initial impressions of him so far?

MD: I’m learning a lot from him already. He’s great to play for. He’s competitive, he really wants to win, and he’s a teacher of the game. He’s direct with his communications but he also delivers his message with a sense of humor. I really like playing for him and it’s been good to be able to get off to a great start winning the first three games out here.

SR: Can you describe the type of athlete that Andrew Wiggins is for the people who haven’t seen him up close yet?

MD: He’s just a really smooth athlete. It looks like he’s gliding up the court when he’s out there and it’s really fun to watch him in full flight when he takes off. He’s been working really hard and he’s impacting the game at the defensive end. He’s obviously got a lot to learn as a rookie, but he works hard, he listens and he’s a good teammate. So he’s got a really bright future and it’s going to be exciting to see where he takes it.

SR: Take me through that blocked shot he had against the 76ers on Monday. You end up grabbing the ball before it went out of bounds, how fast did it seem like all that happened?

MD: Well, I kind of remember when he went up and actually blocked the shot. Like you said, it happened pretty quick. Then the ball came off his hand so fast I thought it was going right out of bounds. He got so much of a piece of it. But when it came off his hand I just chased it down and grabbed it right before it went out. After that I found a teammate who was nearby, he got it back to me, and we were off on the fast break. So with plays like that, he’s obviously a lot of fun to play with.

SR: You and Anthony Bennett entered the league together as rookies. Right now he looks like he’s a lot more confident, lot more healthy–how has he seemed to you from the time you’ve spent with him? 

MD: He is feeling confident. He’s worked really hard and he’s in great shape right now. With how hard he’s been working, it’s really good to see it paying off for him. He’s really been rebounding well and he’s making smart plays too. Like, he noticed a mismatch in the post the other day and he went out and called for the ball. He ended up drawing a defensive three seconds because he recognized that mismatch right away. He’s also been driving and kicking, creating for other people as well. It’s really been good to see how much he’s grown and how much fun he’s having right now. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do this year because he’s really motivated and in really good shape.

SR: I know you guys were in practice when the LeBron news broke last week. What was your phone like when you finally got back to it?

MD: My phone was blowing up [laughs]. Everyone was texting me saying how cool it was that he was coming back. I was getting a lot of people from Australia texting me saying the same thing as well. It was kind of funny, too, we were in shoot-a-round trying to get ready for a game. Then we find out we’re getting the best player in the world on our team. So it took a minute to concentrate on the game. Then everyone was just really motivated to go get the win against Milwaukee later that night. It’s going to be great for the team and the city of Cleveland to have him here. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he works on a daily basis and learning a lot from him.

SR: What have you heard about LeBron from that standpoint—as far as that approach and work ethic off the floor—that you’re looking forward to learning from the most?

MD: I’ve heard lots of stories from people who were here when he was here the first time. They all talk about his work ethic, how he’s a student of the game and how he really watches a lot of game tape. The way he studies other teams around the league and makes sure he knows what other teams are running. From those conversations, and what he’s done throughout his career, you obviously know he’s committed to excellence. He’s going to drive everyone around him to do the same thing. It’s going to be really exciting to play with him and I’m just looking forward to the season.

SR: Dante Exum mentioned you by name on draft night during his ESPN interview after he shook hands with Adam Silver. He talked about how you and others from Australia helped pave the way for him to the NBA. Have you talked with Dante much since he was selected 5th overall by Utah?

MD: I text with him a little bit. He’s a really good kid. He’s smart and works hard so I think he’ll have a great career in the NBA. He’s got amazing tools and he’s going to do really well so I’m excited to watch him. We’ll be playing together in the FIBA World Championships and I’m looking forward to representing Australia with him.

SR: Do you have any specific, personal goals this year? With Jarrett Jack gone, for example, is the backup point guard spot a goal of yours?

MD: Yeah, I mean that’s definitely my goal to be the backup point guard this year. But more than that I just want to improve everyday and do whatever it takes to win. Whatever the team and Coach Blatt need me to do I’ll make sure I do that. But I’m just really looking forward to playing some meaningful games late in the season and competing for the playoffs.

SR: Opening night in Cleveland is going to be incredible—maybe the biggest night in the history of Northeast Ohio sports. Have you thought about taking the court that night at all yet?

MD: I have thought about that a little bit. I was thinking back to opening night last year, actually, and that was incredible. The Cleveland fans are so passionate. Even the final game we played, when the playoffs were out of the question last year, they were there supporting us. There is just so much passion in Cleveland and I can only imagine what it will be like this year.

Photo: Getty Images