Veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova wasn’t sure what was next at the end of the season, which made him a lot like most other free agents in a pandemic year.
He did know he wanted to return to the Cavaliers. He just wasn’t sure it would work out. There likely was a time when both Dellavedova and the Cavs had their doubts that a Cleveland return was in the cards.
He even drew some interest from LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. James, Delly and the Cavs won a title together in 2o16 with the Cavs. But it was Dellavedova’s gutsy 2015 Finals performance that earned James’ admiration.
James likes getting guys with whom he is familiar. Last season, former Cavs guards J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters finished the season with the champion Lakers. (Though neither so far has been signed anywhere for 2020-21.)
But for Dellavedova, the Lakers’ interest was exploratory at best. Staying with the Cavs was always believed to be his preference. Last week, Dellavedova and the Cavs agreed to a one-year contract, just ahead of the start of training camp.
“I love it here,” Dellavedova said Wednesday. “I have friends that are going to be lifelong friends, our son was born in Cleveland and along with the championship, it’s always going to be a special place.
“I didn’t know what things were going to look like, but I think obviously in 2020 you have to be ready for anything. I’m excited to be back in a city and with an organization that I love being a part of and where I am comfortable.”
Dellavedova, 30, is has been a fan favorite since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2013. His endless hustle and penchant for running the offense in reserve has also made him a favorite of the entire organization.
He does have plenty of wear and tear from his early days, when he seemed to sacrifice his body on every possession — constantly bumping into opposing guards (or forwards or centers), diving to the floor in chase of loose balls, and just generally playing like a man who needed a helmet and padded suit.
But he finished the season strong, recording averages of 6.8 points and a whopping 9.2 assists in the Cavs’ final five games.
The Cavs know Dellavedova’s value, what he brings.
“We needed Delly,” guard Collin Sexton said. “He’s always vocal. No matter what, he’s always going to be there. He’s always going to be that uplifting player and uplifting guy.”
Sexton wasn’t finished.
“He’s not changing,” he added. “He’s definitely going to let you know if you’re messing up out there. He can be hard on you, but also pretty much help you. He’s a coach-player and everybody loves him.”
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff and general manager Koby Altman would be the first to agree with Sexton.
Meanwhile, Dellavedova is just happy it all worked out — that the business stuff is over and the focus can be on the basketball side of things.
“I think with the guys that we have and the continued development — I’m not saying I’m guaranteeing the playoffs — I think we definitely should be setting the goals high,” Dellavedova said. “Because that’s the standard you hold yourself to every single day.
“I think it’d be wasting everybody’s time if you just come in and go through the motions. Every night you roll the ball out on the floor, I know I’m trying to win and I know the guys in this locker room are trying to win. We’re going to be competing every night and demanding that of each other.”
Yeah, sound about right. Sounds like the Dellavedova the Cavs have always appreciated.