Donovan Mitchell talks about “maxing out” the Utah experience, then leads Cavs into the jazz blowout

Donovan Mitchell led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 122-99 win Monday over the Utah Jazz team, which traded him this offseason.

Before the game, he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears about his time in Salt Lake City and his relationship with former teammate Rudy Gobert. He told Spears in an interview published Monday that “we’ve done a lot of special things,” while acknowledging that a jazz team led by him and Gobert that never made the Western Conference Finals fell short of expectations was.

“Basketball just didn’t work out,” Mitchell said of his relationship with Gobert.

Mitchell, who played five seasons in Utah, also spoke about the challenges of being a black athlete in a mostly white city, an experience that changed for him in Cleveland. He described his experience in Utah as “sapping.”

“If I’m being honest with you, I never really said that, but it was exhausting,” Mitchell told Spears. “It just drained my energy just because you can’t sit in your room and cheer me on and then do all these different things.”

Mitchell cited an incident in which 10-year-old Isabella Tichenor took her own life amid allegations of bullying. He also referenced Utah State Senator Stuart Adams, who suggested that Mitchell needed to be cleared up after Mitchell opposed a critical racial theory resolution in the state legislature.

“I’m not saying every fan specifically, but I just feel like it was a lot of things. A state senator saying I need to educate myself about my own black history. Seeing black kids being bullied because of the color of their skin little girl hangs herself because she’s being bullied.”

Dec 19, 2022;  Cleveland, OH, USA;  Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) defends Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.  Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2022; Cleveland, OH, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) defends Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell called Pushback against his advocacy for racial equality “a lot” and said it’s difficult not to see a lot of black people in the stands at jazz home games.

“And then, not to be able to see a lot of us in the crowd, I did my best to make sure I invited young black and brown kids to games to be in the community,” Mitchell continued. “But not seeing us there was definitely tough.

“And now that you’re in Cleveland, see us at court. It’s just refreshing. It’s a blessing to be around people who look like me again.”

The change of scene did Mitchell good. He led the Cavs with 23 points in just 23 minutes Monday and rested on the bench in the fourth quarter of the blowout win. He hit 4 of 5 3-pointers while shooting 8 of 12 from the field. The effort has become the norm since trading with Mitchell, averaging a career-best 29.5 points per game while shooting 50.3% from the field and 42.4% from 3-point range. His performance attracts MVP enthusiasm.

Monday’s win improved the Cavs to 21-11, including an NBA-best 15-2 at home. After the game, Mitchell continued the conversation about basketball, admitting that “it’s different when you play against your friendsthe guys you were in a locker room with, the guys you fought with.”

Monday’s game took place in Cleveland. He expects the Jan. 10 rematch to be different when he returns to Utah.

“It’s always good to play against your boys,” Mitchell told reporters. “I think the bigger game will probably be when we get back out there.”

Also worth circling on the calendar: January 14 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It will be Mitchell’s first chance to face off against Gobert, who the Jazz also traded in the offseason. Mitchell missed a November 13 matchup in Cleveland with a sprained ankle.

“I’m going to hug him and be happy to see him,” Mitchell told Spears of Gobert. “And I wish him the best. There is no hate. There is no ill will towards any of this.”

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