This one was hard to write, I’m not going to lie.
As far as basketball, it was a game that was marked on the calendar ever since the Utah Jazz traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game ended how everyone expected before the season began with the Cavs blowing out the Jazz, 122-99.
With the Jazz having one of the most surprising seasons in the league, it was more interesting than we would have thought, but the Cavs dominance showed. I mentioned it in the preview, but coming into this game, the Cavs have the #1 defense in the league, along with elite scoring talent in Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. They demolished the Jazz by exploiting the Jazz’s weak defense and lack of elite star power on offense.
Donovan Mitchell showed why he was a highly coveted trade target last offseason. His ability to score at all levels, while also distributing the ball, makes him one of the most exciting players in the league. Tonight he scored 23 points in just 22 minutes on 66% shooting from the field and 4/5 from three. Message received. His first quarter was unreal, with his ability to rise behind the arc and knock down huge shots. You combine that with an elite point guard in Darius Garland, and elite defenders in Okoro, Mobley, and Allen, and you can see why the Cavs are a legit contender.
There were some elements of the game that were interesting for the Jazz on the floor. Kelly Olynyk’s value was very apparent. Without his outside shooting, the spacing for Utah isn’t as good, and the Jazz don’t have enough talent to overcome spacing issues. Olynyk also embodies the unselfishness that has been the calling card of this team. His passing opens things up for everyone else. Without that, it’s one too many cogs missing in a system that the pieces make up something greater than the individual parts.
The Jazz have now lost 2 in a row, and they haven’t been very inspiring in the last two games either. It doesn’t mean the season is over, but they really need to get back to the energy and intensity they had to start the year. If they don’t, they could find themselves with a lot more losing streaks coming.
I wanted to put down a couple of thoughts about Donovan Mitchell and Utah. I know the last thing people need is thoughts from a white man on racial diversity, but I do think it’s important to talk about the impact of Donovan Mitchell here in Utah.
Before the game, Marc Spears released an article where he talked with Donovan Mitchell about his time in Utah. It was a reminder of the good times as well as some of the pains and difficulties in Mitchell’s last few years on the Jazz.
“There was a lot of stuff that I dealt with being in Utah off the floor. If I’m being honest with you, I never really said this, but it was draining,” former #Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, now with the Cavs, told @andscape. Much more from Mitchell here: https://t.co/jEMh7NYsUt— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) December 19, 2022
Revisiting those things was a reminder of the painful transformation that this state is going through. The fact is, there isn’t diversity in this state like there is in Cleveland or New York. Having the disadvantage of lower diversity means that getting to where we want to be with these issues is an uphill battle. It’s a battle we have to keep fighting, but it’s always going to be a difficult, painful one. Knowing that Mitchell feels more comfortable and at peace now that he is out of Utah makes me happy for him, I truly want him to be happy, and I know that Jazz fans would agree.
But that also means we are left without him to make real changes here in Utah. That’s why this part of the article was so hard to read.
What are you proud of being a part of in the Utah community that you hope to bring to Cleveland?
The biggest thing I’m proud of right now is just being able to be in the community. Literally, I’d be at [high school] basketball games. I would go there because I know I would’ve done anything for an NBA athlete to be at my high school games. I understood who I was in the community and what that did for kids. You never know what a kid is going through on a daily basis. You never know what one moment will do for a child in their life, let alone that day.
For me, there’s still moments where I can remember being forever blessed to be able to be around certain people who I had on a pedestal. And so, for me, just being in the community, whether it’s going to games, going to barbecues, being stopped at the mall by people, I continuously want to do that. I’m never going to change, no matter what happens in life. That’s just who I am. I’m forever grateful I’m able to do that and to get that reaction. It makes you feel good to be able to make somebody else’s day. I’ll continue to do that throughout my career and my life, even when I’m done playing.
This community truly loved Mitchell, he had a mural put up downtown right after his rookie season, we bought his shoes, we annoyed national writers on Twitter begging for Mitchell talk on podcasts, we wore his “Rookie?” hoodies, we shared his commercials, our site manager got doxxed by Boston fans with how hard we went back and forth with Philly and Boston fans.
It was all worth it too because Mitchell is a special player and a special person. His transcendent personality, and play, were something that changed hearts and minds. He might not have seen it in the comments on Instagram and Twitter, but he had a big impact. In the article, he mentions the public statements from state senator, Stuart Adams.
It was just draining on my energy just because you can’t sit in your room and cheer for me and then do all these different things. I’m not saying specifically every fan, but I just feel like it was a lot of things. A [Utah] state senator [Stuart Adams] saying I need to get educated on my own Black history.
Mitchell was frustrated with those comments, and rightfully so. But the fact is a literal political leader was forced to reckon with his message. That is a level of power very few have. It was the good trouble that will make this state a better place for everyone.
That’s why I’m left sad after this game. Not because of the loss, but because it was a reminder of Mitchell’s influence that will no longer be here. We’ll keep doing our best to improve, learn, and to grow. But it won’t be with Mitchell, which makes it much harder. Worth it, but much harder.