Nicolo Melli chose to come over and test himself in the NBA late — he was 29 when he signed with the Pelicans two seasons ago. He was traded at the deadline this year to Dallas as part of the J.J. Redick deal, and he got into 23 games for the Mavericks as a reserve big.
Now he has decided to return to his native Italy.
Melli has signed with Olimpia Milano in the Italian league, a club he played with for five years early last decade, as a young player. This is a team coached by former Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina. Under him, the club reached the Euro League Final Four last year.
“I told you it was an “Arrivederci,” Milano,” Melli said in a statement announcing the signing. “There’s obviously a lot of happiness coming back six years later to a club that represents so much in my development: here I came as a kid, here I played the first high-level games, here I won an unforgettable championship. I return a different player because of the many beautiful experiences I had abroad and because of the titles that I won with other teams.
“Milano is different from the one I left: different players, different coaching staff, the management has changed too, and I’m thankful to them and to the ownership group for how strongly they tried to get me back. But one thing will never change, and that is the winning mentality of a club that is always looking to the top and the passion of a fan base who can’t wait to be again together with its team. For those reasons, coming back, six years later, is very motivating.”
Melli is a role player in the NBA — he was a restricted free agent, and if he had stayed in the NBA he would have found a home — but is a star-level player in Europe. You can’t really blame him for wanting to go home to that experience (when the money was not going to be dramatically different).
The next place you’re likely to see Melli is the Tokyo Olympics — he helped Italy qualify for the games by beating an excellent Serbian team.