When the Milwaukee Bucks prepared to take the Golden State Warriors on earlier this month, preparations were thrown into chaos, especially for Matthew Dellavedova. He was included in a multi-player trade between the Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards.
It resulted in Dellavedova returning to ‘The Land’, and a second stint with the franchise that gave him his first break that led to an NBA championship ring in 2016.
Seldom used in the early going with Milwaukee, a fresh start brought new opportunity, and Dellavedova has taken his chance with both hands.
Dellavedova has played seven games with the Cavs, reaching double-digit scoring in six of those outings. He’s knocking down 48 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and is chipping in with 4.3 assists per contest.
Above all else, Dellavedova is giving Cleveland fans something to cheer for, with the cult-hero receiving regular standing ovations at Quicken Loans Arena, and even the odd MVP chant from time-to-time.
Fred McLeod, longtime Cavs TV announcer has seen it all in Cleveland. He’s been court-side for both LeBron James eras –and exits–, he was present for the Cavaliers’ remarkable comeback to win the 2016 NBA championship against Golden State, and he’s gotten to know Dellavedova first hand over a long period of time.
With LeBron once again leaving town, the buzz around the Q has been significantly below the previous few seasons, McLeod explained to The Pick and Roll that the fans have remained loyal to their team, as a new wave of Cavaliers come through.
“Cleveland is a great sports town, they’ve always supported the teams through thick and thin, they are still in the top ten for attendance, and television ratings are still strong,” Mcleod said.
“They know this is a different ball club and they’re excited about how this thing is structured and put together. I think they are in a lot better shape than in 2010 [when LeBron left the first time].”
The support might have been there prior to the trade, but the spike in atmosphere has been unquestionable since the return of Dellavedova. But why exactly does the city of Cleveland love the guy from Maryborough?
“He’s just that hardworking, defy-the-odds kind of player,” McLeod responded.
“Brett Brown always talked about him being a pure Australian, but you could say he’s pure Cleveland too. Cleveland folks are blue collar and they appreciate hard work, they love hard work. Delly always gives up his body as we saw last week with me. He could have been hurt and I could have been hurt but that’s just Delly. That’s why people in Cleveland love him.”
The incident McLeod is referring to came in Dellavedova’s second game back at the Q. With a loose ball heading towards to sideline, most would expect it to bounce out of bounds without harm. Of course, most guys chasing down that loose ball are not named Matthew Dellavedova.
It's all fun and games until Delly destroys your notes 🤣 pic.twitter.com/V3Tce4HBz3
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) December 15, 2018
Dellavedova dove over the announce table, cleaning up McLeod in the process, while flinging the ball back into play.
“I saw him coming and it’s just a split-second reaction, I’m just trying to brace myself and yet support him a little bit if I can,” McLeod recalled.
“It happened so quickly that none of us had any time to think. We love being down on the floor, it’s the beauty of the NBA, no other sports you want to broadcast from the field or court level but pro-basketball is that one sport, you can’t get any closer than we are. In that case it was a little bit too close, but it’s ok.”
Aside from putting himself in potentially harmful situations, Dellavedova is indeed contributing on the court, in a situation that is quite different from his first tour in Cleveland.
“Now that he’s come back we appreciate him even more from a basketball sense,” McLeod admitted.
“Since he’s returned our assists are up five a game, that’s a significant jump in a short period of time. Delly’s role is a little bit different than with the old group who was littered with veterans so now he gets to work with a guy like Colin Sexton. We always appreciate Delly’s basketball IQ but now you really see it up front when he’s running the second unit and he’s doing doing a great job.”
John Schuhmann of NBA.com further illustrates the impact Dellavedova has had on the floor from an advanced statistical point of view. It can’t be denied, he’s contributing towards positive when he is on the floor.
Since Matthew Dellavedova rejoined the Cavs, they're a +44 in his 119 minutes on the floor & a -114 in his 217 minutes off the floor: https://t.co/wWa4sHMOcg
His on-off differential is 41.3 points per 100 possessions: https://t.co/q50IzQmS5U
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 22, 2018
In more traditional numbers, Dellavedova is posting what would be career-high marks in points (11.0), 3-point percentage (48 percent), and field goal percentage (55 percent) through the first two weeks post-trade. So what is it about Cleveland that brings the best out of the veteran Boomers guard?
“When you win a championship, it cements you to that team and the town forever. When they have 20, 30, 40-year reunions for that team, Delly will come back and get a standing ovation and you’ll always look at that Championship ring,” McLeod said.
“Certain guys just like certain circumstances better and I’m not saying he didn’t like Milwaukee, but it’s just like a comfortable pair of shoes you put on and it just feels right. For Delly, this just feels right. Cleveland is where he got his first break, he defied those odds right from his time at St Mary’s.”
Speaking of his time at St Mary’s, McLeod fondly recalls seeing a scruffy haired Dellavedova playing on the Cavs Summer League squad way back in 2013.
“I remember seeing him in Summer League, and thinking “who is this guy with the long name?”.
“I knew he played hard enough but I wondered if he had the skill level to do it, sure enough he’s proved that. Just his work ethic and his grit and his toughness is just incredible.”
Several times through our chat, McLeod mentions Sexton, Cleveland’s 8th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Why does he believe Dellavedova will be so crucial in the development of their young prospect?
“Championship wisdom, you can’t buy that, he’s got it and he’s more than willing to share it.”
For a young team trying to find its identity, that’s just invaluable.
*Fred McLeod has been the Cleveland Cavaliers play-by-play guy since 2006-07.