Aussie Aussie Aussie: Down Under trio key in NBA Finals

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Jim Slater
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Oakland (United States) (AFP) - A trio of Australian-born players will play key roles in the NBA Finals, and at least one of them is going home with a title from their championship series debuts.

Aussie big man Andrew Bogut helped the Golden State Warriors to the NBA's best record this season at 67-15 while the Cleveland Cavaliers have been the hottest team in the playoffs at 12-2 thanks in part to Aussie-born guard Kyrie Irving and his backup, hustling Aussie Matthew Dellavedova.

Bogut, a 7-footer who was the top pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, says Aussies have the right mental fit to handle the variety of jobs needed in the NBA, from past long-range shooters as Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal to centers like Luc Longley, who played for three NBA championship Chicago Bulls teams.

"I think it's just something that we mature at an early age and playing for the team and not trying to be an individual," Bogut said. "For the most part I think we fit in with teams pretty well. We play different roles, and I don't think we pout too much when it comes down to not getting minutes or shots."

Whatever it is, Cavaliers superstar LeBron James can't get enough, boasting on Dellavedova and Aussies.

"I love Delly. What he brings to our team brings just toughness and grit, determination. Just tries to beat all the odds," James said. "He has been great for us. I love you Australian guys. You guys are cool."

Irving was born in Melbourne when his father, Drederick Irving, was playing pro basketball there, the family moving to America when Kyrie was only two years old.

He takes pride in his Aussie links, even though he plays internationally for the Americans.

"They are a little bit more deep rooted in Australia than I am, but we're all Aussie born, and it's great to see three of us in the finals," Irving said.

Last year, Aussies Patty Mills and Aron Baynes helped the San Antonio Spurs beat James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. This year, Dellavedova has gone to Mills seeking secrets to success.

"I've talked to Patty just in general about a lot of things, and he's always great," Dellavedova said. "He has given me little tips and advice."

Bogut has spoken with Longley, who spent 11 seasons in the NBA and whose role with the Bulls' title teams mirrors that of Bogut with the Warriors.

"Luc and I met the other day. He was congratulating me," Bogut said. "He told me, 'This is the whole reason you done everything you done since you were a young fellow so make the most of it. There will likely be some nerves but it will be something you'll remember your whole life.'"

Bogut and Dellavedova are pals but will share little more than "G'day" until the finals are done, Bogut saying, "We'll be professional now and friends afterwards."

- Big for Aussie hoops -

The first Aussies to oppose each other in the NBA Finals should make for great exposure Down Under for the sport, even if it comes during Friday work, Bogut said.

"Any attention we can get in Australia is huge for the game," Bogut said. "We'll have the whole of Australia watching. I'm hoping a lot of people will be on their laptops. I don't think a lot of work will get done on Friday."

Some have cited Aussie Rules Football as a youthful spark to physical play by Bogut under the rim and Dellavedova battling for loose balls.

"The hard-nosed style we play, we don't mind getting physical. We get scrappy," Bogut said.

"In Australian sport in general, not just Aussie rules, you're always taught to win the ball," Dellavedova said.

Dellavedova's diving after loose balls let to a collision that sidelined Atlanta's Kyle Korver for the playoffs and had some calling him a dirty player, although James was among his quickest and fiercest defenders.

"He didn't have to say anything. So it was nice," Dellavedova said. "I don't think there's a problem with how I play."

Neither does Bogut, saying: "That's ludicrous. I don't think he's dirty. He's a hardnosed player. He goes out and gives it all he's got. You're going to get labeled different things and that's just a part of earning a paycheck."