Donovan Mitchell’s fan base keeps growing.
Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The NBA’s superstars always seem to go out of their way to stop the Utah Jazz rookie on the court after games and share a few words of encouragement. But even Mitchell was surprised to see Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook making his way toward him on Saturday night.
“Westbrook doesn’t really talk to anybody,” Mitchell said. “That kind of took me for a spin.”
The league’s reigning MVP spoke to Mitchell for a few seconds and then patted the back of the rookie’s head.
“I can’t say all of it,” Mitchell said of the conversation. “He did just say, ‘Keep going. Don’t stop.’ I think that’s been the biggest message I’ve got from guys around the league. It’s easy to be complacent and that’s my biggest fear. I don’t want to be the guy whose first few games out he does well and then just falls back. I want to continue to build.”
And Mitchell certainly wanted more after Saturday night.
The Thunder cruised to a 103-89 win over the Jazz. Westbrook had a triple-double. Paul George (26 points) and Carmelo Anthony (16 points) hurt the Jazz.
But no player scored more than Mitchell, who finished with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting. So while Westbrook had Mitchell’s ear after the game, George and Anthony — with 14 All-Star appearances between them — waited their turn to speak with the rookie guard.
“It’s well deserved,” Jazz guard Rodney Hood said. “He’s, in my book, the rookie of the year. He’s been playing his ass off the whole year on both ends. He deserves all the respect he’s getting.”
Individually, it was another strong night for the Jazz rookie. After missing two games with an injured big toe, Mitchell was back in the lineup and leading the Jazz on the floor.
“It was good. No problems at all,” he said of his toe. Then the rookie knocked on the wood inside his locker while saying he did not think it would be a lingering issue.
What did hurt, however, was the final score.
So while Mitchell appreciated his meeting with Westbrook, George and Anthony, he’d prefer the next one to come under different circumstances.
“It’s a blessing and an honor for that to happen,” Mitchell said. “But in the same light, I want to beat those guys. It’s cool to have them talk to you after the game and I respect them to the highest level, but I want to win. That’s the biggest thing.”