Matthew Dellavedova, now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Kyrie Irving, still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, are good friends.
Unless they’re practicing against one another, per USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt:
In practices, Dellavedova – an undrafted rookie scrapping to make the 15-man roster – went after Irving.
“I would pick him up full court every day, and he probably didn’t like it much at first,” Dellavedova said.
Irving – the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 – didn’t like Dellavedova’s irksome style.
Shoving and yelling were not unusual in those heated practices.
“It was very competitive, high intensity,” said Irving, who lived in Australia as a kid while his dad played pro basketball there.
In the end, per Zillgitt, Dellavedova and Irving grew to have a great respect for each other. Each credits the other with helping their game.
Two things stand out here. First, this is a reminder of how competitive NBA practices can be. In today’s age, we’re used to players being adorned in bubble wrap. You don’t see the biggest names going full bore in preseason tilts or even Olympic games. It’s all about staying healthy and minimizing the risk for injury.
But, in NBA practices specifically, you have guys, be they role players, bench warmers or roster fringes, trying to leave an impression. Practices are their best opportunity to do that. They won’t be awarded the same playing time as established stars and known basketball commodities.
The other, perhaps more important, thing to note here is this: If Delly used to piss off Irving in practice, as a member of the same team, what’s to happen when they face each other as opponents for the first time (outside the Olympics) during the regular season?
I’m already making popcorn.