The Utah Jazz Reunion Tour is in full effect.
They’ve already met Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves twice this season, once in October and again on Dec. 9 at Vivint Arena. They visited Joe Ingles in Milwaukee last Saturday. They lost to Bojan Bogdanovic and the Pistons in Salt Lake City and will see them again in Detroit on Tuesday night.
None of those games, however, will carry the same intrigue as Monday’s matchup in Cleveland against Donovan Mitchell’s Cavaliers.
Especially considering the three-time All-Star guard, who has taken his game to another level since being traded to the Cavs, has had a series of media sessions that disgruntled Jazz fans can collectively call the “Foot in Mouth Tour.” :
The first comments to spark Jazz Nation’s ire came back on December 4th.
“This is not a shot at my guys in Utah, so I don’t want the message to be misinterpreted or anything, especially on Twitter, but I’m having fun again,” Mitchell said.
Needless to say, the last word of that quote made fans’ eyes very heavy, suggesting, as it did, that he didn’t have fun with the Jazz for at least some of his end. tenure here.
Even if he meant it harmlessly, simply as an acknowledgment of the good vibes he had with his new team and city in Utah, it clearly confirmed their worst suspicions; After the loss to “Mavericks” in the playoffs, the team showed its desire to leave. that despite years remaining on his contract with the organization, he already had one foot out the door and was looking to a future with another roster.
Speaking of that playoff loss to the Mavericks…
Whatever doubt Mitchell may have received from some fans probably went out the window after the Cavs’ 105-90 win over Dallas on Dec. 14, when he admitted the Mavs played a key role in the NBA’s in shaping his path.
“For me, it’s just understanding, at the end of the day, they’re kind of the reason I’m in Cleveland,” Mitchell said. “They did a great job in the playoff series, so I’m thankful. I’m here. I’m glad to be here.”
Again, viewed a certain way, his being “grateful” and “happy” with the Cavs could be interpreted as being grateful and happy to no longer be with the Jazz.
Regardless of his intentions, three of his former Jazz teammates still with the team chose not to view his comments in a negative light ahead of Monday’s reunion.
“Actually, I don’t mean that in any bad way. “I think when you win and you’re successful, when you have a career year and you play well, you have fun,” point guard Mike Conley said. “And I’m sure he had the same fun when we played really well as we all did. So, you know, we’re all having fun now. I think everybody who moves in different places or the same place, we all have a good time, we all enjoy basketball.”
Jordan Clarkson, who took over the starting backcourt spot that Mitchell vacated in his deal with the Cavs, agreed that it shouldn’t be taken personally, though he acknowledged that the way things ended up in Utah; An early postseason exit may have contributed to Mitchell’s feelings.
“I think it’s not a shot at us. Maybe it was something he just wasn’t amused by. And maybe he just found a new love, another aspect or vision of the game,” said Clarkson. “It’s not really, like I said, a shot at us. We had a great time, we just didn’t get what I wanted in terms of winning the championship. Maybe that’s what he’s talking about [regarding] having fun But we loved playing with each other, loved being on the court, competing for games. We are all happy [now]”.
Veteran forward Rudy Gay can sympathize with Mitchell’s statements, admitting earlier in the year that his goal this season was to “bring back the joy of playing basketball and just try to have fun.”
Obviously, his situation was different than Mitchell’s because he was cut from then-coach Quin Snyder’s rotation altogether. However, as someone who has played for both well-run and poorly run organizations, he can appreciate the impact a change of scenery can sometimes have.
“From what I experienced last year, it seemed like a lot of things were getting complicated. For Donovan to come here and be here his whole career, you know, I don’t know, maybe he felt like he outgrew certain things or certain people. It is what it is. It’s the NBA, you know?’ Gay said: “He’s going to look back on it and appreciate his time here like I did [regarding] this point in my career. It is what it is. everything is a learning experience. Donovan played well, played great. I can’t be inside his head, but he looks good.’
Jazz players say it’s important to evaluate Mitchell’s comments logically rather than emotionally, keeping the context in mind.
When those quotes are juxtaposed with an often-stressful season in which a team with championship aspirations struggled to gain real traction, then suffered a crushing playoff loss, it’s easier to see where he’s coming from.
“There were moments we didn’t have [enjoy] because we lost, we failed,” Conley said. “… To have the expectations that we’ve had over the last few years and not meet them, and in such a short amount of time, we all go home feeling a certain way. And then when the new year comes, you just say. “Man, I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to be short. I do not want to discourage the people. I don’t want to drown the city. I want to be better.” And to do that, you just have to let go of a lot of things.
“Let go of the things that stress you out and just bekid, when you’re playing, just have fun and enjoy it,” he added. “Because as you get older, as Rudy and I can attest, you start to realize that yes, it’s a game, but it’s a game that we’ve been blessed to play and hopefully for a long, long, long time. and we can.” not take it for granted. You can’t overthink it, you can’t think about what we haven’t accomplished and what’s held us back or anything. Just genuinely enjoy it and you can go out and make some really good things happen.”
Aside from the big picture perspective, Clarkson was adamant that Mitchell didn’t mean those comments negatively, as they still come up often, and the former Jazz guard honestly seems to be treating his trade as a win-win for all involved.
“I think he is happy for us. “I talked to him after the game when we beat Golden State,” Clarkson said. “As I said, I don’t think it’s a shot in our direction. But I think for him, I don’t think it was like that. “Yes, I am having fun again. I’m not amused here. It was one of those, like, “Yeah, I need something new, a new experience.” Whatever it was, where he just fell in love with the game, having fun, getting out there [and] competing every night.”