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Matthew Dellavedova has made a name for himself and, in the process, carved out a nice career for himself with his tough, take-no-prisoners style of play.
However, as those who follow the Cleveland Cavaliers are aware, “Delly,” who spent the first three years of his career with the Cavaliers before signing a free-agent deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, sometimes steps on and even crosses the line that separates hard-nosed play and that is a bit sketchy in nature, perhaps calling Dellavedova’s aggressive nature a sweep-the-leg mentality.
It happened again Saturday night at Washington. Midway through the fourth quarter of the Bucks’ 1110-103 victory at Capital One Arena, Bradley Beal of the Wizards received a pass in transition from teammate John Wall and drove left past Dellavedova. Instead of attempting to make a play on the basketball, Dellavadova grabbed Beal by the shoulders and pulled him to the hardwood. Both teams converged and the result was a flagrant-2 foul and an ejection for Dellavedova.
“I feel like he’s a dirty player,” Wall said after the game. “Whatever their team and people say and other people can vouch for him, to me, I always thought he was a dirty player.”
Milwaukee’s Matthew Dellavedova was given a flagrant 2 foul on this play.
Was this the right call? Why or why not? pic.twitter.com/0UAb7aqTNt
— The Lead Sports Media (@NBALEAD) January 7, 2018
The NBA will now review the play and determine if more action is necessary against the native Australian.
To say the Wizards were more than a little upset with Dellavedova after the game would be an understatement.
“There’s no place in the game for that,” Beal said. “It’s the difference between making a play on the ball and wrapping your arms around somebody’s neck.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks agreed.
“It should never happen. Those plays should never happen,” Brooks said. “It’s a professional respect that you want to play with.”
For his part, Dellavedova said he was not attempting to injure the high-scoring Beal on the play.
“I saw Wall throwing the ball up to Beal and I tried to run him off the three,” he said. “He decides to drive it, so I tried to hold him up and he either slipped or — because he went down.
“I was just trying to hold him to prevent him from getting the and-one, and then he just went to the ground.”
Dellavedova looked apologetic as soon as Beal hit the floor and seemed to attempt to help him up, but Beal immediately got to his feat on his own and gave the former Cavaliers guard a piece of his mind.
Beal was’t buying it, then or later.
“I understand you want to stop the ball, but there’s a right way and a wrong way,” he said. “There is no place in the game for that. I don’t care, there is a difference between making a play on the ball and wrapping your arms around somebody’s neck.
“It was what it was. He fouled me and got thrown out for it. I don’t really have an opinion about it. One thing I didn’t like was how the ref went after me versus trying to control him. I have a right to react the way I did.”
Dellavedova’s style of play came to the fore during the Cavaliers’ march to the 2014-15 NBA Finals against Golden State. Playing shorthanded because of injuries, Cleveland turned to a slower, more-physical style of play and it worked, though it got under the skin of more than a few players.
In fact, when Kyrie Irving was sidelined after Game 1 of the 2015 Finals with a broken kneecap, Dellavedova took over as as Cleveland’s starting point guard. He held, bumped and basically got under the skin of Steph Curry so much that it threw the guy who would later be named unanimous Most Valuable Player off his game to the point the injury-ravaged Cavaliers won Game 2 and Game 3 of that series. Eventually, though, exhaustion took over, even resulting in Dellavedova being hospitalized for dehydration, and Golden State won the series, 4-2.
After helping the Cavaliers avenge that loss by rallying past Golden State to win the 2016 NBA title, Dellavedova cashed in. A restricted free agent, he reached a deal with the Bucks. Not wanting to lose him and receive nothing in return, Cleveland signed him to a 4-year, $38 million deal and traded him to Milwaukee for Albert Miralles and $200,000, a deal that also created a $4.8 million trade exception, on July 7, 2016.
In 2016, a writer for Los Angeles Times writer said he had polled 24 NBA coaches, assistants and players. He said Dellavedova received most votes (13) as the dirtiest player in the league, followed by Oklahoma City center Steven Adams.
The same story referred to another incident in the aforementioned 2014-15 playoffs, when Dellavedova dove onto the floor during a playoff game against the Atlanta Hawks and with current Cavalier Kyle Korver. Korver was injured on the play and required offseason ankle surgery to repair the damage.
However, in the same story, an assistant coach defended Dellavedova.
“He ain’t dirty. He just plays hard,” the assistant coach said. “See, guys resent people that play hard because they don’t want to play hard.
“So if a guy plays hard, he’s dirty. He’s not dirty. He just plays hard.”
Even Wall offered some praise for Dellavedova’s physical style of play, with a caveat.
“I give him credit, he plays hard,” Wall said. “I take nothing away from him with that, but I just feel like he’s a dirty player. A guy’s going full speed, you don’t grab him by his shoulders.
“You grab him by his waist or whatever else.”
The play on Beal was not the first scrap in which Dellavedova was involved in the game.
Just minutes before the confrontation with Beal, Wall and Dellevadova had a back-and-forth during a free throw by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. It was an argument about which team was getting more calls from the officials and Jodie Meeks stepped in to separate them.
“Stop talking to me like that,” Wall said of what he said to Dellavedova. “You’re not my guy. You’re not my buddy on the court. We have no reason to (talk to each other).”
By the way, the Wizards and Bucks will be seeing one another soon. Milwaukee returns to Capital One Arena on Jan. 15.