Matthew Dellavedova is playing with a chip on his shoulder

Matthew Dellavedova is already playing like he's got something to prove.

Sure, he has an NBA Championship ring in his possession, and is a three-time Olympian, but there really is a sense the Australian point guard has a chip on his shoulder going into the new NBL season.

The obvious thing to put it down to was Dellavedova missing out on selection for the Australian Boomers' 2023 FIBA World Cup campaign; the first major international tournament he's missed with the national team in more than a decade. The reason Dellavedova joined Melbourne United this offseason was to be better placed to be part of the Boomers' upcoming campaigns; so, when that didn't happen, the competitor in him seemingly became poised to be unleashed in as forceful a way as we've ever seen.

"Delly is such a unique competitor," Chris Goulding, his United and Boomers teammate, told ESPN. "There's a fire burning in that guy that will never go out."

Dellavedova's opening minutes of the NBL Blitz - the league's annual preseason tournament - gave us a window into how he feels about not being part of the Boomers' most recent campaign, and how he's approaching his return with United.

As soon as he checked in for United's game against the Brisbane Bullets, Dellavedova came off a middle on-ball and quickly stepped into a three. Bang. The next offensive possession, Dellavedova inbounded on a baseline out of bounds play, immediately sprinted for a hand-off in the corner and launched a contested three. Same result. He'd go on to drop 28 points in 19 minutes. The following game, against the Illawarra Hawks, Dellavedova put up 20 points in 22 minutes, scoring in a similar, assertive-as-hell fashion.

The 33-year-old seems as locked in as ever. He says he's in the best shape of his life - his secret is apparently eating more steak - and has continued working out with his former Saint Mary's teammate, Paul McCoy.

"I've been working hard and feeling healthy for a couple of years now," Dellavedova told ESPN.

"I think that really helps. Just continuing to find ways to get better. I've been eating a lot of steak, trying to get a lot of sun, a lot of grounding; I think that's all helping. I always enjoyed steak but I've been trying to eat a lot more, and I feel like it's helping."

The on-court difference, at least from the very early returns, has been noticeable. Dellavedvova is stepping into threes quicker than we've ever seen from him - as opposed to his usual, jagged set shot we became used to - and seems to be turning the corner off on-balls with noticeably more aggression.

He joined United this off-season with the intent on being more of a focal point offensively than he's ever been, but the extent of it - from what we've seen thus far - has been one of the big surprises of this NBL preseason.

"Just trying to be aggressive and knock down shots," Dellavedova said. "I think the game has changed as well, so that's something we've been working on in general. Going into a different role, you always work on where you think your shots are going to come."

Dellavedova has developed a reputation - nay, an identity - of someone who overcomes hurdles and fights through adversity. He's been the personification of someone who plays above their weight, which is why those around him had a level of confidence that his response to missing out on the most recent round of Boomers selections would lift, not break him.

"He had a set-back with the Boomers; how some people would've dealt with that is obviously very different to how Delly's gonna deal with that," Goulding said.

"That's good for us at Melbourne United, in the way that he comes in and competes and pushes himself... He needed to get an aggression out that'd been building for weeks and weeks and weeks. Not surprised one iota that he came out and did that.

"He has shown on every stage, in world basketball, that he can do that; he comes out and has those Delly games, and it's a wrap. He's getting them up, they're going in, and he just takes control of a game. I hope we get to see it a hell of a lot more."

Dellavedova came off the bench for two out of United's three games at the Blitz, but that's not expected to continue going into the regular season.

Dean Vickerman's plan is to start with a backcourt of Dellavedova and Shea Ili; a pair of creators on the floor, both of whom have historically placed a particular focus on the defensive end.

With Dellavedova exhibiting this increased level of scoring prowess and intent, that starting backcourt partnership theoretically makes even more sense, and it's something Vickerman is extremely excited about.

"We knew we were getting a highly motivated guy," United's head coach said.

"He's strong. His body's in the best shape I've seen it for a long time. His diet. He's doing everything as a pro right now to give himself the best chance.

"Obviously the World Cup was a goal for him and it didn't happen. He moved on quickly. There's still another international goal, Boomers goal for him that's not that far away as well.

"Any time in his career that someone's knocked him down or doubted him a little bit, you've often seen the absolute best performances from Delly. We're pretty excited about the motivation that we have from him this year."

Dellavedova's career, up to this point, has prepared him for this moment. Over his nine-year NBA career - primarily with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks - the gritty point guard had to overcome obstacles on obstacles in order to achieve success. Whether it was having to fight his way up a rotation to get minutes, or out-working more talented opponents to get an edge over them on the court, resilience has been the theme that's guided his professional career.

Not achieving the ultimate team success during his first stint with United was below Dellavedova's expectations, and being left off the Boomers' World Cup team was a mighty setback. Those things aren't what he feels defines him, though; instead, it's how the 33-year-old responds.

And, as of now, he's made it very clear as to what's driving him.

"For me, the Boomers is the ultimate," Dellavedova said.

"I've never taken it for granted. I know how fortunate I've been to represent Australia. I still feel like my best basketball is ahead of me, so I definitely want to be part of the Boomers for as long as possible.

"The goal is to try to help United win a championship, and do whatever I can to make the team for Paris."