Matthew Dellavedova finally ran out of gas – only after propelling Cavaliers to Game 3 win

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In a time the Cavaliers are lifting the civic pride of Northeast Ohio, David Blatt paid Matthew Dellavedova the ultimate compliment.

“Delly’s the most Cleveland-like Australian I’ve ever met in my life,” the Cavaliers coach said.

Dellavedova, who scored 20 points in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 win over the Warriors, is embracing his adopted city – including taking advantage of its fine medical establishment.

Yup, Dellavedova literally left it all on the floor.

The Legend of Delly grows – from undrafted to the second-best starter on a team leading the NBA Finals in just two years.

Native Clevelanders have embraced him for the same reasons his teammates have.

“The guys love Delly, because he just plays with all his heart, and he cares first about the team and only about the team,” Blatt said. “And whether he’s playing nine minutes or 40 minutes, he’s going to give you everything you have. What’s not to love about the guy?”

Blatt added Dellavedova is Kyrie Irving’s favorite teammate. “Loves the guy,” the coach said.

Irving, on the mend, wasn’t around to confirm – and at one point that definitely wasn’t true. But the other Cavaliers were quick to sing Dellavedova’s praises tonight.

Tristan Thompson: “Every night, he’s going to come out and bust his tail. He’s going to play hard every possession.”

LeBron James: “He gives us that grit, that grit that we need. He gives us everything until the tank is empty. Then, he has a small little reserve tank that he continues to work through. He’s huge for us.”

Dellavedova isn’t the most talented player, but his style fits Cleveland’s needs in a starting point guard right now. He hounded Stephen Curry defensively, nearly constantly pestering the MVP. It wasn’t until the assignments changed that Curry got going, though his run continued once Dellavedova switched back onto him. Dellavedova also made a pair of 3-pointers on assists from LeBron James.

LeBron will do the heavy lifting. He just needs teammates who complement him – who exert enough energy on defense to allow him to conserve for offense, who make the opens shots he creates.

That’s Dellavedova.

Dellavedova has started two games in the Finals, and he’s led all starters in plus-minus both times at +13. In 39 minutes tonight, he also added five rebounds and four assists to his 20 points.

“He’s had games like this. You may be surprised, because you don’t follow us all season. But he’s had some games like this,”Blatt said. “And I don’t even know that it’s a matter of confidence with Matt. I just think he plays as hard as he can every day. He plays right. He’s not afraid. He plays courageously.”

It’s even gotten to the point where a national audience can recognize Game 3 as a quintessential Dellavedova game.

He threw an alley-oop:

He committed an arguably dirty play:

 

He made a ridiculous/lucky shot:

 

He dove for a crucial loose ball:

“He’ll give you whatever he has,” Blatt said, “and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

But the Cavaliers will.

They’ve built this series lead in large part because of Dellavedova, and the options are slim behind him without Irving. They need Dellavedova healthy in Game 4.

Maybe that’s actually the ultimate compliment.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.