Now that the trade is complete, we finally got to hear what Donovan Mitchell had to say as he spoke to Cleveland media and when he sat down with Brian Windhorst. Here’s a link to the video along with a summary of the most interesting points.
First off, this is Windhorst getting the interview which is interesting in and of itself. Windhorst was very locked in on all the trade rumors this summer and so having this one on one likely means he’s been one of the main points of contact media-wise for CAA, Donovan Mitchell’s agency.
The first interesting point was that Donovan Mitchell was apparently “shocked” by the Royce O’Neale trade and mentions how he was his best friend. That right there makes it clear that Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz were all in on the rebuild at that point. The days of making signings like they did for Eric Paschall were over.
Which, by the way, we should be surprised at from recent comments by Ainge, but we’ll get to those in a second. It was at this point that I’m sure Donovan Mitchell knew that Danny Ainge and company were doing what was best for the Jazz. It was the right thing too, this Jazz team had bent over backwards to make things work for Donovan Mitchell and in the end it wasn’t good enough. If we’re being honest, it was never going to be good enough. Mitchell obviously had his sights set on other places, mainly New York, and he all but confirms it in this interview.
At one point Windhorst asks him how close he was to being a Knick and Mitchell says, “very close. I won’t say more than that. I know a little more than most, definitely very close, but it didn’t happen.”
Windhorst then asks about about growing up close to the Knicks and his home in Connecticut. Mitchell then says, “It wasn’t so much as a rumor, it was more like this is going to happen.”
Mitchell does mention how excited he is to be in Cleveland and all the talent, but it’s clear that New York was the goal.
When you combine this with what he said to Cleveland media, it’s even more interesting.
Donovan Mitchell: “I kinda had a feeling I was going to get moved. I thought it was New York, I'm not gonna lie to y'all. Who doesn’t want to be home…”pic.twitter.com/0SpMpreg1L— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) September 14, 2022
Mitchell is saying out loud to the media he wanted to be home, he wanted to go to New York. What all happened behind closed doors we may never know, but at least now we know for sure what he wanted. For Jazz fans it’s a bummer that this ended and that they couldn’t take advantage of their duo of perennial all-stars. The good thing is they faced the cold truth, Donovan Mitchell was leaving and they had to be proactive. Considering all this, the fact that Danny Ainge got so much for Mitchell, with him wanting to go to New York, is pretty remarkable.
Speaking of Danny Ainge...
If you haven’t seen it already, Ainge spoke to local media about the trade recently and let everyone know what his perspective was.
Here are the quotes that hit like a load of bricks.
“What I saw during the season was a group of guys that didn’t believe in each other... I’m not sure there was a belief.”
“Maybe they were waiting for the playoffs, but it was clear they did not perform in the playoffs ... again.”
Has the word “again” ever hit harder? Ainge saw in this team what most Jazz fans had seen dating all the way back to the Clippers series. A dysfunctional, broken team that had no belief and no cohesion. And that included an ineffective playoff coach who couldn’t fix it.
So Ainge got to work. What we were told was that Quin Snyder resigned and the Jazz “couldn’t get him to sign an extension.” Sure, we’ll play along with that little story. But we’re going to give Ainge credit for the transition from Snyder to Will Hardy. Remember Will Hardy? Feels like ages ago he was brought on.
He then traded Royce O’Neale for a 1st round pick from Brooklyn. After that he made the Rudy Gobert trade. Is that what we’ll call it? It needs a name because it was such a monumental haul it put every move in the league at a standstill. The aftershocks were so strong and longlasting it played a big part in keeping Mitchell from an easy ride to New York.
When the Knicks came to Utah to
begin their tampering to get the Mitchell trade started watch the Jazz and Mavericks playoff series, it was likely their expectation they could get an easy trade done for Mitchell in the offseason. I mean, Leon Rose was from CAA, Mitchell’s agency. How hard could it be? Well, that changed when Danny Ainge put a line in the sand and a price that had to be paid. The Knicks, as we all know, weren’t willing to pay it and the rest is history.
Something needs to be said here for the badassery of Danny Ainge. (I don’t care if that’s a word or not.) This market has had to listen for over a year about the Mitchell rumors. How many times did we hear about Miami and all the trade proposals for Tyler Herro? How many times did we hear the Knicks rumors and wonder where they were coming from? Well, it’s pretty clear they might have been coming from the source. Considering all that, knowing that Mitchell wanted to be in New York, Ainge held to his principles and didn’t make the move until he was ready. He made the Gobert trade early in free agency which set him up with leverage going to New York. That’s right, Knicks fans, Ainge had the leverage. With the market set he knew he could get at least something close to that for Mitchell. Over the summer, the league accepted he wasn’t bluffing and bent to his will. Oh and you can bet they’re not happy about it. They’re so frustrated they’re
crying venting to reporters still.
I think tomorrow I’m going to take this quote from the article above, crush it up, and put it in my Sodalicious.
“Those trades aren’t real,” one general manager told Heavy Sports. “I mean, I guess they ARE real because they [expletive] happened, but whoa … It’s going to be interesting to see how fast things get back to normal after this — if they do.”
As Teri Hatcher put it so well in her episode of Seinfeld, “they’re real, and they’re spectacular.”
Yes, Danny Ainge came out of these trades with 7 unprotected first-round picks, 2 young rookies for this season who you could also consider first-round picks, and a handful of pick swaps. And the Jazz aren’t done. They still have Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley and Bojan Bogdanovic that will all net some sort of first-round pick.
It’s really hard to describe just how good a job this front office did this offseason, but you can bet we’ll spend all season doing our best. And when you consider how well Lauri Markkanen and Simone Fonteccio are doing in Eurobasket, it’s just a bright juicy cherry on top of this black and yellow sundae in Utah.
Finally, we heard from Jordan Clarkson on the trade.
“You look up this off-season, you trade Rudy Gobert, you trade Donovan Mitchell - what was that like for you as the next best player on the team?”— Jalen & Jacoby (@JalenandJacoby) September 14, 2022
WE GOT HIS HONEST ANSWER TO THIS AND MORE! pic.twitter.com/nacpNFEhsA
It’s absolutely worth a listen. Clarkson mentions how it hurt what happened with the trade and that “maybe one of the sides gave up.” I’m not quite sure if he’s talking about the Jazz or one of the players, but it’s a reminder that Clarkson is a great teammate and he truly cared about this Jazz team.
Whatever happens this summer with Clarkson, he’s been a great ambassador for the team and if he’s part of the rebuild, that’s fantastic. If not, you can be he’ll have Jazz fans rooting for him wherever he ends up.
To put a bow on this, I’m ready to talk about basketball again. I’m happy to have the bickering and pot shots at press conferences behind us. I’m ready for there to be joy with basketball again. This new Jazz team is going to be fun to watch with a huge amount of storylines and players to root for. The recent chapter of Jazz basketball is over, but this new one is looking like the beginning of something special. We’ll see how things look in a few weeks when training camp starts.