Sport Boomers star Matthew Dellavedova excited to take on NBL after decorated NBA stint
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A return home to Australia for Boomers star Matthew Dellavedova was not always on the cards at this stage of his career.
Few walk into the NBL having achieved as much as "Delly", who was on the Cleveland Cavaliers' roster when they won the 2015/16 NBA championship.
He returned to Victoria a few months ago to take up a three-year deal with Melbourne United, and is excited by the prospect of playing regularly in his native country.
"It's awesome to come back to Australia and play in the NBL," Dellavedova told ABC Sport.
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"I wanted to come back because I thought it was the best place for me to work on my game and continue to get better.
"Coming back to the NBL, I'll play a bit of a different role to one I've played in the NBA the last few years … have the ball in my hands a little bit more and be making more decisions, being asked to be a bit more aggressive."
Dellavedova's assignment is simple: get minutes on the court, show Australia his improved offensive skill set, remain healthy and let the NBA scouts take notice of what they are missing in the United States.
"There's a lot of things that I want to work on to continue growing and getting better in my career," he said.
"I'm looking to drive, get in the paint, finish around the rim a bit more and I think working on those skills is going to be able to bring out my passing and other things."
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While a stint in the NBL was thought more likely to take place towards the back-end of his career, it happened sooner than anticipated for Dellavedova after he experienced concussion symptoms, whiplash and neck injury setbacks.
But the 31-year-old said he was feeling as fit as he had ever been due to an extended break between seasons and coming off a bronze medal at his third Olympic Games.
"I feel like being back already, I've had a lot more time to work on my body with the extended gap before the season starts," he said.
"So my body's feeling strong and athletic and in good shape, and I think that's going to allow me to do more things on the offensive end."
The highly pursued guard chose to join Melbourne United where he had connections, instead of linking up with cross-town rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix or NBL newcomers Tasmania JackJumpers.
"I've played a bit of pick-up with United before," he said.
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"I knew [Melbourne United coach] Dean [Vickerman] a little bit but I knew of his reputation more.
"Any time I've had with the national team I've always enjoyed playing with [Chris] Goulding and [David] Barlow, and just kind of picked their brain.
"And then being closest to my family and being an established successful team with a great culture, it's been easy to slot in here and learn what has made United successful."
Dellavedova's immediate focus is on the NBL season, where Melbourne United will look to defend their title with the addition of a world-class lockdown perimeter defender.
"My focus is definitely to help United win a championship," he said.
"My long-term goal is to definitely get back into the NBA, but right now I'm just focused on getting better and doing whatever I can to help United get ready to win games."
Boomers in 'a great position'
A lot has changed since the last time Dellavedova was in Australia for the Boomers' exhibition series against the US in 2019, when the hosts secured their first win in 55 years over the basketball superpower.
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"Playing in front of 50,000 in a basketball game is obviously a rare experience," Dellavedova said.
"To beat the US in front of a home crowd was just an unreal experience. I'm sure it's something all the boys will remember for a long time.
"The more games we can get over here the better."
Winning Australia's first Olympic medal in men's basketball at the Tokyo Games only added to the Boomers' international reputation.
"I think Australian basketball's in a great position," Dellavedova said.
"It was an amazing experience, winning bronze, and so much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into it over a long period of time for this group.
"But then … to see how much it meant to Gazey (Andrew Gaze) and other Boomers players of the past was a special feeling … we definitely felt that support being over there."
With the next crop of Australian basketballers coming through the ranks — including the likes of Josh Giddey — and the potential of adding superstar Ben Simmons to the Boomers' roster, Dellavedova predicted a bright future for the national men's team.
"Our goal is still to win a gold medal and it's amazing to get the bronze," Dellavedova said.
"But our focus — looking ahead towards Paris in 2024 — is to get that gold medal.
"But it's just a special group in general. It's always fun, competing on the court and a lot of fun off the court as well."
An attraction for Dellavedova upon returning to Australia was to spend more time with family, without the grind of travelling throughout a gruelling NBA season.
With less travel, Dellavedova has adapted to fatherhood in Australia, where he and his wife Anna can now show their two-year-old son Anders the wonders of his hometown Maryborough in regional Victoria.
"It just helps put things into perspective," Dellavedova said with a smile.
"If you have a rough day or a tough loss … when you get home you know there's obviously a lot more important things, and just hanging out with him (Anders) is a lot of fun."
Fitness remains an on-court priority for Dellavedova, who said he still had something to offer in the NBA.
"I've got a long way to go," he said.
"And the way I'm feeling now … my body feels better than it's felt the last few years."
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