When Donovan Mitchell was asked near the end of Wednesday morning’s shootaround if he was planning to watch Thursday’s All-Star Draft between captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was legitimate surprise on his face.
“Oh, that’s tomorrow? Ummmm … yeah. Definitely,” he said, feigning mock certainty. “I didn’t even know that was tomorrow. I’m excited.”
The first-time All-Star honoree even claimed there have been times in the week since the announcement was made that he’s even forgotten he was selected — though he quickly clarified it’s not because it’s not important to him and that he’s not honored by it, but a combination being singularly focused on trying to right the Jazz’s recently-listing ship and the fact that the All-Star news simply hasn’t totally sunk in just yet.
“To be honest, it takes people telling me I’m an All-Star for me to remember that I’m an All-Star. After that night in Denver, you kind of just breathe and just exhale, and you can just worry about the games coming up. Obviously, they haven’t gone in our favor,” Mitchell said. “I hate to say it and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I really forget because I’m just really worried about what’s coming up [with the Jazz]. But now that you point it out, I’m definitely gonna watch it tomorrow, for sure.”
OK then. So … would you rather play for Team LeBron or Team Giannis?
“Uhhhhhhhh … I don’t know. I’d rather just play with Rudy. I don’t mean to sound corny when I say it, but seriously, I think it’d be cool for us to enjoy that moment together. But if we do play against each other, I can kinda get back at him for France against USA [in the FIBA World Cup],” he said. “But it’s tough question. I grew up a LeBron fan, so it’d be pretty special. But there’s no one really like Giannis in the league, so I wouldn’t mind playing for either team, to be honest.”
It was a little corny, and he absolutely meant it that way. Still, reading between the lines — Team LeBron (plus Rudy) it is.
In case you missed it
The Jazz’s defense has been a thing of late. Or it hasn’t been a thing. Is that right? Whatever — the Jazz’s defense (especially on the perimeter) has left a lot to be desired lately. How ’bout that?! That works. Anyway, the team is making it a point to mention that they’ve gone through and recovered from lulls before, and they believe a few days of practice will help them bounce back this time. Columnist Gordon Monson, however, thinks it’s more than a temporary issue, and wonders if a lack of athleticism or a lack of recognition is the problem.
As for other things that happened on the recent road trip of doom, well, apparent depth-pieces-trade-bait Mike Conley was re-inserted into the starting lineup vs. Portland and immediately made his presence felt; also, Jordan Clarkson had arguably his best game with the Jazz, scoring 37 and nearly rallying the team in Denver. Feels like there was something else, too. What was it? What was it? Hmmmmmmm …
Oh! Almost forgot — Rudy and Donovan were selected as reserves for the All-Star Game to take place Feb. 16 in Chicago! That was definitely a thing.
And finally, in case you’ve somehow missed those 38 Woj tweets every hour for the past week, Thursday marks the NBA’s trade deadline. My Jazz coverage teammate at the Tribune, Andy Larsen (who is off the trade market … unless the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or Cleveland Plain Dealer or San Francisco Chronicle wanna put multiple first-round picks on the table [call me!]) broke down the Jazz’s options at the deadline.
Other people’s stuff
• Tony Jones of The Athletic also wrote about what the Jazz’s options are at the trade deadline (spoiler: could stand to upgrade at backup center and with another defensive wing, but all they really have to offer is Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay). Tony also dove into the perimeter defense issues that have plagued the team during this stretch.
• Sarah Todd of the Deseret News also delves into the trade deadline (noticing a theme here?), breaking down five potential trade targets for the Jazz (spoiler again: Markieff Morris, Jakob Poeltl, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky, and Chris Boucher).
• ESPN’s Tim MacMahon had some unique details about Conley’s return to the starting five, and how it impacted Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale.
We’re about to see a lot of familiar teams. Tonight’s game is against the Nuggets, whom the Jazz lost to on Jan. 30. On Friday, they host the Blazers (whom they lost to on Feb. 1). On Sunday, they’re in Houston against the Rockets (whom they lost to on Jan. 27). And on Monday, they’re in Dallas vs. the Mavericks (whom they actually defeated back on Jan. 25!). Their last pre-All-Star-break game will be Wednesday at the Viv, against the Miami Heat.
And finally …
Can I just say, if you’ve never been to Portland, you oughta give it a try. I had a lot of fun staying in the downtown city center — so much stuff to do there. Was hoping to catch Reverend Horton Heat in concert on the off-night I was there, but, quite properly, the show was sold out (and resale prices were beyond the meager means of a humble print journalist).
Anyway, visited a couple of great food spots there, too. Former TribJazz Tony Jones billed Screen Door as “a top-five restaurant in America,” which I was dubious of, ’cause the man’s only ever eaten at a handful of places on the road that weren’t Marriott Courtyard Bistros. It lived up to the hype, though — the Bananas Foster French Toast was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. Sampled some of Tony’s chicken and waffles, too, which was also amazing. The night before, a few of us on the beat hit up BAES Fried Chicken. Excellent chicken sammich, tasty cole slaw, and the playlist that night was ridiculous — “Family and Loyalty (feat. J. Cole)” by Gang Starr; a poppier remix version of “It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube; “Always Coming Back Home to You” by Atmosphere; the head-bobbing banger “Breakin’ Dawn” by Brother Ali; “Ms. Hill” from Talib Kweli … and on and on. Left that place in a better mood than I’d been in a minute — in spite of the Kobe tribute we’d watched on the big screen.