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The Encore: Donovan Mitchell Dunk Kicks and Neto’s rare pupper

Looking back at the Utah Jazz’s 23rd week of the NBA season.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz went 3-1 against the dregs of the Eastern Conference. We all knew a loss against the Atlanta Hawks was going to happen because they’re a championship contender and you can’t convince us otherwise. There was some fantastic stuff around the Jazz writing sphere so let’s touch on all of it.

‘We really wanted to set the tone’: Jazz end road trip on winning note in Chicago – The Athletic

For the record, the Jazz went 3-1 on their final extended trip of the season, which culminated in a dominant 114-83 win over the Bulls.

Ten things I like and don't like, including terrifying Giannis

6. Royce O'Neale, off the catch

In July 2017, this dude showed up in Salt Lake City as an unsigned practice player with Utah's summer league team, got his tooth knocked out during a scrimmage, went to the hospital, and came back that night for another practice. That's how desperate O'Neale was for an NBA job.

Now he's a rotation fixture for playoff team ...

The sneaker giveaway trend taking over the NBA

While most players have taken to giving away their pairs after victories, when they're presumably in a good and giving mood, Mitchell has taken a different approach all season long. He'll break out a new size-15 pair of the Adidas Pro Bounce Low or the Adidas Pro Vision for his sweat-drenched pregame workout, then find an early-arriving fan for a more intimate sit-down and handoff.

The pregame approach has in theory led to even more giveaway pairs for Mitchell, whose Utah Jazz are currently eighth in the combative Western Conference, having hovered above .500 for most of the season. The pregame moment also allows for Mitchell to take more time with his autograph, and pose for pictures and videos with fans.

Former Jazzman Al Jefferson says he’s retired from NBA, joins Big 3 league - The Salt Lake Tribune

His NBA game will be remembered for an accurate, hard-to-stop sweeping “push shot” in the lane, a convincing pump-fake on his jump shot that caused numerous young players to turn red in the cheeks — "One of the best pump-fakes I’ve ever seen, you know it’s coming but he still got people with it,” Derrick Favors said — and an overall approach to life in the NBA that tended to turn him into a locker room favorite wherever he went.

“One of the best people I’ve ever been around. When I got to Utah, he welcomed me in with open arms and brought me up under his wing,” Favors said. "Just a hilarious guy, a great guy to learn from. He always was just enjoying the moment, always worked hard, and just had fun.”

Donovan Mitchell greeted by 200-300 friends and family in hometown New York; Ricky Rubio flies 12-year-old cancer patient from Spain for the game - The Salt Lake Tribune

Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio also had a special guest in attendance at Wednesday’s game: 12-year-old Luca de la Vega, who is a basketball player for Unió Esportiva Mataró, a club in Spain. When de La Vega suffered a cramp in his shoulder, doctors discovered the presence of Lymphoblastic Lymphoma T cancer.

Rubio learned about de la Vega’s story and surprised the youngster by visiting his house in Spain last summer. Then, he flew the young boy and his family to New York for Wednesday’s contest, where he received the VIP treatment: watching warmups courtside, meeting and receiving autographs from all of the Jazz’s players, and hanging out with the team in the locker room after the game.

Donovan Mitchell heard about a former teacher’s daughter and friend who needed money to finish school. He gave her $25,000. - The Salt Lake Tribune

“Yeah, I went to private school, but it was expensive. It wasn’t the easiest. You need pants, dress clothes, all that stuff. Naja was there to help Jordan out when we needed it, and her brother helped me out,” Mitchell said. “That’s the stuff I remember more than the stuff in the classroom.”

The sacrifice Nicole Mitchell and Deborah Paert made paid off, though. You know of Donovan’s wildly successful NBA career; he certainly stands to make in the hundreds of millions of dollars during it. For Naja, she’s a talented artist: She studies illustration at the Savannah College of Arts and Design. SCAD doesn’t come with the fame of the NBA, but it’s a very good institution; it was named the top creative school in the world in 2017 for motion graphics. It also earned the top spot in the “Red Dot Design Rankings."

Utah Jazz players have come to rely on Ekpe Udoh’s positive energy during final playoff push | Deseret News

Ekpe Udoh’s nose was buried in “Becoming” by Michelle Obama hours ahead of the Utah Jazz’s tipoff against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at the United Center.

Also, after every home game at Vivint Arena, the Jazz center religiously yells out some form of encouragement to those around him before exiting the locker room.

“Y’all have a good evening,” Udoh waved at teammates and media members following a March 4 loss to New Orleans.

“Pray for the ones in New Zealand,” he insisted after the Jazz’s 120-100 victory versus Minnesota on March 14.

He once even recommended a Sam Cooke documentary on Netflix, and you can’t forget about Donovan Mitchell’s favorite Udoh catchphrase of “peace and hair grease.”

The legend of Jerry Sloan still intact in Chicago as former Utah Jazz coach approaches 77th birthday | Deseret News

The Bulls' digital/social media team is currently putting together a graphic and story on Sloan for his birthday next week, according to a Deseret News source. They will also tie in a short video mention on their scoreboard when the Bulls host the Portland Trail Blazers on March 27. The plan was to make it closer to his actual birthday, so it wouldn’t have worked for this next Jazz contest.

Thank you, Cleveland Avenue: Derrick Favors' letter to the City of Atlanta | Deseret News

That’s the real Atlanta in my opinion, and I’ve always been proud to represent Cleveland Avenue. Honestly, it’s what you make it. It’s some good, it’s some bad, but it’s what you make it. It’s a lot of good people over there. The side that I grew up on, the whole thing is a community. Basically, everybody knows everybody. It’s a good area. I know sometimes it might get a bad rap but over there it’s a lot of hidden talent, whether it’s in music or in sports, or not even that, in just regular living. We’ve got a lot of people who have come up over there that have went on to become lawyers, teachers and just anything in everyday life, so I think it’s one of those hidden areas that doesn’t get talked about.

Jabari Parker feels Utah Jazz fan base gets bad rap: ‘They’re just very passionate’ | Deseret News

So, with that, as well as being one the few NBA players who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his perspective on Utah is different than most. While NBA players throughout the years have been critical of Jazz fans, he thinks the overall fan base is often painted in a bad light.

“They really get (a bad rap) because they just look forward to competition, they look forward to people coming in and they take their basketball very prideful there,” Parker said. “You’ve got good fans, you’ve got bad fans, but that’s everywhere so you can’t include all of them as one.

“It’s just the culture there, they’re just very passionate and sometimes living in that box where you only have a white demographic, they are ignorant to the surroundings and they’re ignorant to who’s out there with the black players so that’s just how it is.”

Are the Utah Jazz better than they were last season? - SLC Dunk

This past summer, the Jazz decided to run it back with an almost identical roster to what they had last season. Things started out very slowly on the season, much due to a brutal early schedule and frankly, just bad play. The Jazz found themselves fighting to remain a .500 basketball team being suffocated from high expectations and aspirations. Dennis Lindsey decided to switch things up a bit when he traded Alec Burks for sharp-shooter Kyle Korver (Machine Gun Korver as I prefer to call him), and things started to get much better. Although the swing has not been quite as dramatic, this season is very similar to last for the Utah Jazz. That being said, are they any better than they were last season? Do they pose any more of a threat towards the Warriors or Rockets, teams that were clearly above their tier last year in the playoffs?

Signing Jimmer Fredette doesn’t change anything for the Phoenix Suns - Bright Side Of The Sun

Your first instinct when you heard Fredette was coming back to America and playing for the Suns was probably to giggle. That was the right reaction. It’s crazy to see his name back in NBA news and it’s even crazier that it involves the Suns, adding to the insanity that has taken place at the point guard spot in Phoenix the past two seasons.

Check out Donovan Mitchell absolutely dripped

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In addition, your boy Donny got his first national commercial that played during the NCAA tournament. Insanity.

Starting to think Donovan Mitchell’s air kick when he dunks is his signature. Put it in NBA2K, Ronnie.

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The Garden

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The only gif you need for the rest of the year ...

Jazz set a new franchise record in Chicago.

TFW you realize that every Neto is damn fine.