Who would have thought that a second-year backup point guard who averaged less than five points per game during the regular season would not only become the most wanted man in Atlanta, but the basis for a national debate between what a dirty play is and what a gritty play is.
That’s exactly what has happened to Cavaliers point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who in the matter of three days went from being the white guy off of the Cavs bench, to a player that everyone seems to have an opinion on.
There doesn’t appear to be a middle ground when discussing Dellavedova’s style of play. On one end there’s a group of people who have watched him throughout his college career at Saint Mary’s and defend his intent on the basketball court to a point where they believe he would never attempt to injure another player.
And then on the other end of the spectrum there’s an incredibly loud group of people mostly Hawks fans who are doing what peeved fans do in 2015, wish for Pero “The Future Bond Villain” Antic to amputate one of Delly’s legs.
In all seriousness though, the time between incidents caused by Dellavedova is alarming. In 10 days he was involved in a play that resulted in Taj Gibson being ejected, he was then involved in a play that forced Kyle Korver to have ankle surgery and then almost crushed Al Horford’s leg, which resulted in a reaction by Horford that led to his ejection. That’s quite a few skirmishes for a bench player to be involved in during an entire season, let alone less than two weeks.
The small amount of time in between the incidents makes it easy to slap a label on Dellavedova as a dirty player because he was able to crack the code of the ADHD newscycle we currently live in. Appearing in the top block of SportsCenter and trending worldwide on Twitter for similar incidents in 72 hours will do wonders for your reputation, good or bad, but mostly bad.
There’s plenty of video evidence to support either side of the fence. If you believe Delly acted with malicious intent during the Korver and Horford incidents, you can view the plays over and over while agreeing with his justification that he rolled onto his stomach to protect the ball before connecting with Korver’s leg like a bowling ball drilling a single pin spare. Then you can point out how Horford was the one that pulled Dellavedova to the ground.
If you believe that Dellavedova was trying to give the shorthanded Cavs an advantage by taking out the guy who had one of the greatest shooting seasons in NBA history and then almost putting the heart and soul of the Hawks on the shelf, well you’re in luck because the same videos also apply for this argument.
The first time that I watched the Korver video I didn’t think Dellavedova had any intent of crushing his leg. It looked like an unfortunate injury that took place while two guys were going after a loose ball. But after I saw the Horford play happen live and viewed the replays, I couldn’t look at the Korver video the same. My perception of Dellavedova’s gritty play in Game 2 was skewed due to the close proximity of the encounters and frankly because something just hasn’t sat right since he got Gibson ejected.
Somehow Dellavedova didn’t receive a tech or a flagrant for clearly locking the leg of Gibson. The evidence is pretty clear, how he didn’t receive anything is frankly incredible, which is why it was stunning that he received a technical after the Horford play. I don’t think Gibson should have been ejected for kicking Delly in the ass, but I do agree with the decision to toss Horford, his immediate reaction was to drop the hammer down on Dellavedova and during the process of throwing the elbow realized he probably shouldn’t have done so, but it was too late.
Approximately 50 minutes later when the referees finally came to the decision to end Horford’s night, the Dellavedova discussion was well underway. Next to LeBron’s triple-double on 37 shots, Dellavedova became the biggest story of the night and potentially the entire Eastern Conference finals. The impact he’s had on this series can’t be ignored.
Gritty, dirty, tough, determined, dangerous, clumsy.
Those are all acceptable words to describe Dellavedova’s play over the last few weeks. Some are going to agree with a few and others will agree with a different group, but we can all agree that Dellavedova has a reputation now, which is something that can’t be ignored.
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