Washington • “If he or we felt like he could be effective, he would play,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday afternoon, as Donovan Mitchell sat out against the Wizards due to illness. Mitchell has been battling a bug since at least Wednesday’s game against the New York Knicks. Then, he wasn’t willing to admit that he wasn’t 100% — “I’m great” was how he responded to questions — but clearly didn’t sound or look like the normal Mitchell.
It’s progressed since then: Snyder was willing to admit Mitchell was sick on Friday, but said he was able to contribute anyway. Mitchell didn’t score a lot, only getting four points, but he added value on the defensive end, garnering two steals in the game’s first six minutes that let the Jazz get out to an early lead they would never relinquish against the Charlotte Hornets.
“It says a lot about him when you’re not 100 percent, that you come in and focus on defending. Because that’s focused on the team winning,” Snyder said.
On Sunday, though, the team’s doctors didn’t think Mitchell would be able to contribute at that level. He’s still on this trip, and will continue to be evaluated day-by-day. The Jazz’s next game is Tuesday, against the Brooklyn Nets.
Accountability on the floor
One thing that this Jazz team prides itself on is working together to correct issues on the court. Sometimes, those are the big things. A missed communication on a switch, for example, nearly always leads to an open layup or three. But sometimes they’re smaller things, from giving a player an extra foot or two of spacing, or the timing of a cut or action.
But the Jazz constantly communicate about those issues, too. You can see players constantly huddling up — almost like a college team — in order to talk about what happened on the last play and what will happen on the next one.
“As a coach, if you can get them to believe that some of those little things add up ... guys start to buy into that because they feel it makes them better,” Snyder said. “Then your team improves.”
Expectations vs. reality
The Washington Wizards were expected to be a playoff team, at least in the middle of the Eastern Conference last year, but wildly disappointed all year, with a 32-50 record. This year, it’s not like they’ve been much better, as their record was 13-25 coming into Sunday’s game.
But there’s a huge difference between losing because you’re expected to, and losing with a young group of players who didn’t expect to win right away. That’s largely where the Wizards have found themselves this year, and the feeling in Washington is a lot better as a result.
“(Last year), we just couldn’t figure it out why we couldn’t play for one another. It was just an interesting mix, without going into detail. I’d throw myself in that group,” Wizards coach Scotty Brooks said. “This year, we’re just working on how to play and (focusing on) how do we improve in certain areas of the game.”