Detroit • Donovan Mitchell won’t have a chance to compete to be the NBA’s slam dunk champion next month, but he’ll have a chance to get a few buckets in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend.
Mitchell was chosen to participate in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 16 at the Staples Center. It’s the fifth straight season the Jazz have sent at least one player to the challenge, and it’s not much of a surprise that Utah’s leading scorer (19.2 ppg.) has been invited.
The 21-year-old guard said it was “crazy” to be a part of All-Star Weekend, which he has watched fervently for years as a fan.
“It’s going to be a great weekend in L.A.,” he said.
Mitchell won’t be the only player with Utah ties: Former Utes forward Kyle Kuzma (16.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) was also selected. The duo will play together on the “U.S.” squad against a “World” team which includes Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, among others.
Mitchell hoped to be even more involved in the weekend, publicly saying in the past few weeks that he would be open to an invite for the Slam Dunk contest. He also tried to show his merit with multiple high-flying dunks that made for a solid resume.
The invite never came, and multiple media reports have said the field is finalized: Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Los Angeles’ Larry Nance Jr. and Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr. Mitchell said he would be excited to cheer on those competitors next month, but he was still a bit crestfallen to not get the offer.
“I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be in it,” Mitchell said. “It’s alright that I’m not. It would have been cool being a part of that experience.”
Jazz granted exception for Thabo Sefolosha
ESPN reported Tuesday that the Jazz have been awarded a $2.62 trade exception from the NBA after Thabo Sefolosha’s season-ending knee injury earlier this month. One of the Jazz’s offseason signings, Sefolosha was enjoying a strong season before he was injured during a road game in Charlotte.
The exception gives the Jazz a tool, albeit a small one, to include cap flexibility in trades for players under contract. In other terms, it’s small consolation for the loss of one of Utah’s veteran leaders.
Rodney Hood missed his third straight game with a reported lower leg contusion. The Tribune has also reported that Hood could be traded before the Feb. 8 deadline.