As he laid his head on his pillow night after night when he was a kid, Finn Delany often tossed and turned with thoughts dancing in his head of one day being an NBA player.
It didn’t matter that he grew up in New Zealand, far, far away from the basketball limelight. Dreams of a career in the NBA for Delany were as common as lacing up a pair of sneakers.
Now, Delany’s dreams are close to becoming a reality.
Delany is one of 14 players on the Dallas Mavericks’ summer league roster. It’s the first time Delany, who turns 24 on Aug. 12, has participated with any NBA summer league squad.
“I grew up as a basketball player,” Delany said after Wednesday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “Every other basketball player grows up dreaming about the NBA, so it’s a little bit surreal to be here and to be a little bit closer to that.”
A 6-7, 225-pound guard/forward, Delany grew up idolizing Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
“Dirk was one of those first international players that you saw coming in and really make an impact,” Delany said. “Dirk was kind of that guy that we love, so it’s kind of unreal to be here.”
Delany stopped short of pinching himself at the mere thought of – if he makes the Mavs’ final roster — playing alongside Luka Doncic.
“Luka is kind of my favorite player now, but I’m a Dirk fan,” Delany said. “I used to watch every one of his games.
“I saw him at the mini-camp (last month) and actually got a photo with him. So that was cool.”
What’s cool, from the Mavs’ perspective, is watching the progress Delany has made this summer. But summer league coach Mike Weinar said the best is yet to come from a player many believe can develop into becoming the breakout star of the summer for the Mavs.
“We’re looking to get him some more opportunities,” Weinar said. “Obviously that’s a position that is very important — that kind of small forward/power forward position, that swing position obviously in the NBA now in the modern game where everybody can shoot the ball, everybody can handle the ball, is a crucial position.
“So we’re looking to get him some more reps and see what he can do.”
Besides making shots on a consistent basis, guard Daryl Macon already knows what Delany can do.
“I think the first day (of practice on Tuesday) he dove on the court probably four times,” Macon said. “The ball doesn’t even have to be there — he’s going after it.”
Macon then observed Delany, some 40 minutes after Wednesday’s practice had ended, still on the court working on his shot.
“He plays hard,” Macon said. “As you can tell, he’s getting up extra shots.
“I think the first day he tried to beat me in being the last one to leave (the gym). So he works hard.”
Delany played one year of college basketball at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo, and averaged 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes during the 2014-’15 season. He also averaged 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in 19.2 minutes while representing the New Zealand National Team in the Asian World Cup Qualifier and the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Of course, drilling jumpers in college and overseas is a far cry from getting it done in the NBA. But being a part of the Mavs, who open summer league play on Friday at 6 p.m. in Las Vegas against the Brooklyn Nets at Cox Pavilion, serves as a window of opportunity for Delany to realize his dream.
“I’m just taking it a day at a time, trying to play as hard as I can and just trying to not really focus on that, but focus on getting better, focus on the moment, making the most of the situation,” Delany said. “I think doing that is the best chance to be successful.
“The NBA plays differently than any other country. Every other country has their little intricacies how they play. I just want to learn how to play here the best I can and be great in my role and just learn as much as I can.”
Weinar certainly has noticed Delany’s desire to soak up as much knowledge about the NBA as possible.
“Finn is certainly an experienced player for his age,” Weinar said. “He’s had a lot of international experience, and he has a good feel for the game.
“I’d like for him to be a little more assertive and step into his role. He’s his own player and we’re looking to develop his overall game.”
After Delany’s stint in the Mavs’ mini-camp, they were impressed with what they saw and invited him back for the summer league. For Delany, it was as if the Mavs had invited him to dinner so he could order his favorite entrée.
“The guys are great, the coaches are great, the staff here is amazing, the facility is amazing,” Delany said. “I’m really happy to be here, grateful, and just trying to make the most of the opportunity.
“Obviously playing in New Zealand, a small country, growing up, the NBA seemed far away, so it’s cool to be here. I played in the Australian league, I played international stuff with the national team, FIBA competitions, and I played in Europe one year. It’s been great to be here and to be on this side of the world.”