Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova on being labeled a dirty player: ‘I was pretty annoyed by it’

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Matthew Dellavedova played sparingly for the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but that’s likely to change significantly beginning with Sunday’s Game 2, now that Kyrie Irving has been ruled out for the remainder of the series with a knee injury.

Dellavedova can’t match what Irving brings offensively, but he brings a different dynamic to the court, and it’s one that his opponents have often found to be frustrating.

Dellavedova was involved in three questionable incidents during Cleveland’s postseason run. The first, with Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls, was largely Gibson’s fault, and didn’t result in anyone being injured.

The two with the Hawks, however, are open to some debate. Dellavedova took out Kyle Korver while diving for a loose ball, and while Korver was lost for the rest of the playoffs, there didn’t seem to be any intent on Dellavedova’s part to cause the injury.

The play with Al Horford later in the series, though, may have been intentional; Horford certainly seemed to think so, and as I wrote at the time:

Horford had Dellavedova with a Kelly Olynyk arm-lock that caused the two to fall to the floor in the first place. Dellavedova fell awkwardly into Horford’s leg, the same way he did in (inadvertently) taking Korver out for the remainder of the playoffs. Horford obviously felt it was intentional, and retaliated. But Dellavedova may have flashed back to Kevin Love‘s season-ending injury when Horford had a hold of him, and could have felt justified in attempting to inflict some damage.

Since then, Dellavedova’s teammates and coaching staff have said more than once that he’s not a dirty player, only one who’s intense. At Finals media availability on Friday, Dellavedova admitted the talk bothered him, at least initially.

“I mean, I was pretty annoyed by it to start with,” he said. “Then between Game 3 and 4 just pretty much turned off the phone and just prepared my body and watched the tape and got ready for Game 4.”

One thing is certain: If Dellavedova should be involved in any type of physical incident against the Warriors, the conjecture will return, and it will be magnified immensely given the fact that he’s now playing on the game’s biggest stage.