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‘New version’ Matthew Dellavedova fuels Melbourne United’s NBL ambition

Matthew Dellavedova's return to the NBL can drive a title challenge for Melbourne United.

Matthew Dellavedova's return to the NBL can drive a title challenge for Melbourne United. Photo: AAP

A steak-fuelled Matthew Dellavedova will debut a “new version” of himself when he returns to Melbourne United for the NBL’s season-opening Victorian derby.

The NBA champion’s homecoming after a season-long cameo with Sacramento has tongues wagging after he dominated the Blitz pre-season tournament last week.

Traditionally known as a role player with great vision and terrific defence, the fit and confident 33-year-old adopted a more aggressive approach as he looked to score and take over games.

Left out of the Boomers’ squad for the recent World Cup, this season has been dubbed a revenge mission for the three-time Olympian ahead of next year’s Paris Olympic Games.

Dellavedova credits a new diet that centres on eating “a lot of steak” and getting “a lot of sun” for the improved physique that has blown away coach Dean Vickerman.

“He was exceptional … the level was unreal and he did that in short bursts,” the coach said on Wednesday of Dellavedova’s Blitz form.

“He’s grabbed the opportunity to score a little more.

“It’s a different version of Delly; he didn’t know how far he was out of shape, he thought it may have been age catching up.”

United has added talented forward Luke Travers, while Germany’s NBA hopeful Ariel Hukporti will finally debut after tearing his achilles in last year’s pre-season.

Hukporti’s mother will be courtside as United begins the season against city rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix on Thursday at a sold-out John Cain Arena.

“There’s a lot to like – Ariel’s mum has flow in from Germany – it’s going to be special,” Vickerman said.

Travers is comfortable carrying expectations of title contention after United missed the finals last season.

His battle with Phoenix star Mitch Creek will be pivotal, while United import Ian Clark could miss the clash with a hamstring niggle.

“It’s going to come with it and we knew that,” Travers said of the pressure of expectation.

“This is the first little test.

“I’m looking forward to going up against (Creek). That brings out the best in each player.”

Back-to-back champions Sydney Kings have lost Xavier Cooks and Dejan Vasiljevic to Washington Wizards but picked up former NBA forward Jonah Bolden, who hasn’t played for three years.

Last year’s runners-up, New Zealand Breakers shape as contenders again behind the talents of guard Will McDowell-White.

Cairns stormed to third place last season, pushing the Kings in the semi-final series.

Swedish talent Bobi Klintman will entertain but the Queensland outfit has been gutted of key pair Keanu Pinder (Perth) and DJ Hogg (Kings) and will start with a long injury list.

Bryce Cotton’s Perth Wildcats are poised to storm back into the reckoning, French Next Star Alexandre Sarr already dropping jaws in the pre-season.

Former NBA star and Boomer Aron Baynes is in the same boat as Dellavedova, and the Brisbane centre has started just as impressively as the Bullets eye a resurgence under new coach Justin Schueller.

-AAP

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