CHICAGO – Pelicans lead executive David Griffin and New Orleans rookie forward Nicola Melli share a joking relationship. So, when Griffin congratulated Melli yesterday on getting selected for All-Star Weekend, Melli didn’t believe it.
“Everybody knows that I wanted to go to the Bahamas on vacation a couple days,” Melli said. “So, I thought he was messing with me. I said, ‘It’s not true. C’mon. I’m going to the Bahamas.'”
So, Melli played in the Pelicans’ loss to the Thunder, grabbed some pizza to share with his wife on the plane and flew from New Orleans to frigid Chicago. Not quite the Bahamas.
Melli is facing another culture shock: At age 29, he’s not the typical rookie. He played more than a decade professionally in Europe before the Pelicans signed him last summer. For context, he’s older than New Orleans teammate Derrick Favors – who’s in his 10th NBA season.
Assuming he plays in Rising Stars tonight, Melli will be the fourth-oldest player ever to play in the event:
Melli appeared happy to be here. It helps that Chicago is just a detour.
“I’m still going to the Bahamas,” he said.