The Jazz will have something in common with this year’s champion, and even title winners of old. Utah doesn’t have an MVP-type of player like Golden State’s Steph Curry or Cleveland’s LeBron James, but the Jazz do have a type of player that has been instrumental to both the Warriors' and Cavs' run to the biggest NBA stage: an Australian.
Golden State center Andrew Bogut and Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova are Australian natives that have been crucial to their team’s success these playoffs, continuing the Aussie NBA Finals trend from the Spurs’ Patty Mills, and even as far back as Luc Longley of the ’90s Bulls championship teams.
It all seems like a nice little coincidence, but The Wall Street Journal asks, “what if it isn’t?”
“The few Americans who actually know Australian basketball say they’re not at all surprised that Dellavedova and Bogut have emerged as indispensable pieces in the playoffs,” The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen and Chris Herring write. “Australian players, they say, tend to be the opposites of most American players. They don’t seek superstardom. They actively avoid attention. They excel in the egoless roles that most players reject.”
Both Bogut and Dellavedova have excelled this year in secondary roles. Bogut’s defensive prowess has been key to the Warriors turning into one of the stingiest defenses in the leagues, and Dellavedova has managed to get under the skin of opposing teams and fan bases with his style of play.
“We’re very laid-back in Australia,” Bogut said in the article, “but when it’s time for work and time to get after it, I think people don’t mind putting their hard hat on.”
Dellavedova has gotten some criticism for the way he plays, with some even calling him a dirty. One of the Jazz’s own Aussies, Joe Ingles, recently answered some questions on the Cavs guard and gave his opinion on whether he thought his countryman sometimes crossed a line.
“The way he plays is what has gotten him this far,” Ingles says. “People have been quoted saying he’s dirty, but he doesn’t have a dirty bone in his body. I’ve played with him for a lot of years with the national team and he’s just a guy who plays as hard as he can and gives everything he’s got every game. He’s been in some situations where I think if other people had been in it then they might not have taken too much notice, but because he’s a little white Australian they make a bigger deal about it.
“He is that guy that’s willing to give up his own stats, his own minutes, because he plays as part a team. If he’s got a 50-50 open shot and someone else has a wide-open shot, he will pass it 100 percent of the time. There’s a lot of other guys in the league that would shoot though. I think all the Australians have that. They’re willing to give up a bit of their own glory for the better of the group.”
In a separate article, Ingles assessed Bogut and said, “If he’s not in that team I don’t think they get to where they are. There are things he does under the basket that you might not see in the newspaper, or on the stat sheet or in a highlight reel, but the stuff he does for that team protecting the rim and some of the passes and defensive stuff, it’s pretty unbelievable to do all that and not get the attention he deserves for it.”
The trend of Australian players helping their teams to NBA glory does bode well for the Jazz. Utah had two Aussies, Ingles and point guard Dante Exum, who played heavy minutes in 2014-15. After one season in the NBA, both have already shown that same Australian mindset and play that has helped their fellow countrymen’s teams reach the top of the NBA. The Jazz probably wouldn’t mind them being the next Australians to reach the Finals.
The rivalry that isn’t
College football rivalry games are for year-long bragging rights, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Connecticut tweeted out a picture of its rivalry game trophy next to a countdown clock to the game. Except it was. Especially to the Huskies' supposed rivals — the University of Central Florida.
Just checked w/ @UCF_Football: "We have no involvement with the trophy or creating a rivalry game with UConn." They were surprised by tweet.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) June 1, 2015
UCF and Connecticut have met just two times in their history, the schools are over 1,200 miles apart and the programs are going in opposite directions. Not exactly things that scream, “rivals.”
But yet, after the Huskies stunned the Knights last season with a 37-39 victory, Connecticut coach Bob Diaco explained how thrilled he was for the new rivalry game.
"We're excited about this game,” he said. “I mean it. I'm excited to continue this game. With all admiration and respect. All admiration and respect for Central Florida and Coach O'Leary. They're spectacular. But we're excited about this North/South battle. You want to call it the Civil Conflict? Maybe I'll win my money and make a trophy. I'll buy it myself. Put a big giant Husky and a big giant Knight on it. Make a stand. Put it in our hallway. The Civil Conflict. The loser, maybe they've got to put nutmeg on the stand when it's not there and we'll put a sack of oranges.”
The Iron Bowl wouldn’t be The Iron Bowl if Alabama didn’t care, and the Civil War wouldn’t be very hostile if things were, well, civil. With how things currently are between Connecticut and UCF, The Civil Conflict looks to be pretty courteous and polite.
And you thought the Utah-Colorado rivalry was forced.