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Diverted from Bahamas, Pelicans rookie Nicolo Melli’s peculiar Rising Stars selection

Pelicans rookie Nicolo Melli

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 14: Nicole Melli #20 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots the ball during Rising Stars Media Availability and Practice as part of 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend on February 14, 2020 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

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.’”

It was true. Melli replaced an injured Deandre Ayton in Rising Stars.

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:

Pelicans rookie Nicolo Melli

Melli appeared happy to be here. It helps that Chicago is just a detour.

“I’m still going to the Bahamas,” he said.