The Cavaliers have come together quite nicely this season, especially when considering just how much and how quickly the roster has changed.
The addition of LeBron James and Kevin Love changed the dynamic in Cleveland, as well as the expectations. But that was only the beginning of a personnel shake-up that wasn’t complete until the mid-season deals to acquire Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov — while sending Dion Waiters out of town — were completed in January, and Kendrick Perkins was signed a month later.
Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova are key players in the rotation, and two guys that have been constants since before the previous season began. While it’s clear now that they’ve developed a bond, it was a rocky start for the two as the relationship was being formed.
“Yeah, they used to f— each other up,” said Tristan Thompson, recalling the times he’d have to play peacemaker in Cavs training camp in the fall of 2013 when Irving, the franchise player and former No. 1 pick, was matched up with Dellavedova, the undrafted rookie free agent just trying to make the team. “They used to go after it every day. There would be times when they’d be ready to fight each other.” …
“I played him in the summer time and he was going into summer league, I was going into my third year and I was like, ‘Who the hell is this kid?’ I was like, I’ve never heard of him,” Irving said. “I had heard of him, because of St. Mary’s, but I had never played against him. So, I’m coming in and he just basically, every fast break, he was just fouling the s— out of me. I was like, ‘OK, well, maybe I’ll see him in training camp.’ So, we went through training camp, every single day we went against each other and damn near almost fought every single day.” …
“Probably the first three months of the season he was irritated by Delly,” Thompson said, “but he realized Delly is not going to stop and it was going to make him a better player.”
Irving was a young, budding superstar, and Dellavedova was unheralded, likely fighting for a roster spot.
Now that Cleveland is contending for a title, and Dellavedova has come through in some of the team’s bigger moments, he’s earned the respect of his teammates. But it wasn’t something that came quickly, and it certainly was anything but easy.