Donovan Mitchell trolls Ben Simmons with ‘Rookie’ hoodie before Jazz game

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates his 3-point bucket. The Utah Jazz lead the Golden State Warriors 62-33 during their game, Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at the Vivant Smart Home Arena.

When asked which other rookies he had noticed this season, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons quickly said: “None.”

What Donovan Mitchell wore to Vivint Smart Home Arena on Tuesday is bound to catch his attention.

The 21-year-old Jazz rookie, considered Simmons’ best competition for Rookie of the Year, donned a black sweatshirt with the definition of the word “rookie”: “An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.”

“Adidas, we just wanted to have fun with it,” Mitchell said after Tuesday’s rout of the Warriors. “That’s all it is. Just having fun and enjoying it. I’m blessed to be in this spot, and my team in this consideration, but why not have fun with it?

“Like I’ve said before, we’ve got the coach of the year and defensive player of the year on my team. So I’m not really worried about this award. I’d rather get two than one selfish award. But it’s great to be in a conversation like that, but at the same time I’m cool where we’re at as a team.”

Mitchell has been deflective about commenting about the race, saying the award would mean less to him than winning games in the playoffs. But the sweatshirt, custom-made for him by Adidas, was the latest salvo in a war of words about whether Simmons or Mitchell deserves the award in a heated race.

Simmons has been the favorite since the season began, averaging 16 points, eight assists and eight rebounds for the 76ers, who recently passed the 50-win mark. Mitchell’s case has grown during Utah’s 28-5 run to the playoffs in the West, during which he’s become the first rookie to lead a 45-win team in scoring since Carmelo Anthony in 2003 with the Denver Nuggets.

While Simmons technically is an NBA rookie, some critics have decried his case by noting he was drafted in 2016 and spent last season out with injury. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s eligible to win Rookie of the Year, but players such as Golden State’s Draymond Green give more credit to Mitchell.

“I think just having NBA training, eating like a pro, watching film like a pro — that makes a difference,” Green said. I’m not taking away anything [Simmons] is doing, because he’s having a fantastic year. … [But] what Donovan has done, coming straight out of college and doing what he’s doing, would get the nod for me.”

Philadelphia is similarly bullish about Simmons’ candidacy. Simmons told ESPN that he thought the award was “100 percent me.” Coach Brett Brown told local media on Tuesday he didn’t think the race was particularly close.

“I think you’re really searching for unnecessary things in my opinion that might give pause to the decision,” he said. “There should be zero pause. As I said, and I’ll say it again, [Simmons] is the stone-cold Rookie of the Year.”

Stars come out

Vivint Smart Home Arena isn’t exactly known for its celebrity sideline section, but two of the biggest athletes in the state came out to Thursday’s game.

Olympic figure skating star Nathan Chen, who told the Tribune back in February that he is a lifelong Jazz fan, was in attendance and briefly did a Q&A on the Jazz’s social media accounts. Tony Finau, fresh off a top-10 performance in the Masters last weekend on a bum ankle, also was spotted in the sellout crowd.