Houston • On Sunday night, in the moments after a Game 4 loss to the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell was observed on camera making a derogatory comment in reference to how Houston star James Harden was officiated.
On Tuesday morning, Mitchell walked those comments back when asked about them by the media.
Mitchell said he was frustrated in the heat of the moment. Not specifically about Harden, but on fouls Harden was rewarded compared with whistles Mitchell didn’t receive from the officials.
The Jazz guard maintained he meant no disrespect to the man who is the front-runner to win his first NBA MVP award. He said he was frustrated and took his frustration out verbally.
“You know, obviously he’s the MVP,” Mitchell said. “There’s no doubt about that. I’m pretty sure we’ve all said things, you know, in the heat of the moment. I mean, you try so hard to fight back. I understand that there are cameras everywhere. I’m getting used to that. Like I said, he’s the MVP and rightfully so.”
For Mitchell, it was a lesson on his visibility, which has exceeded anyone’s expectation in his rookie season. He said he realizes everything he says can be news. In the public eye, Mitchell has consistently said and done the right things this season. He attributes the moment after Game 4 to simply being a moment.
“I’m just focused on being the best I can be for my team,” Mitchell said. “I just have to go out and not complain about calls. That’s not who I am.”
Giving his blessing
Jazz forward Derrick Favors spoke with coach Quin Snyder before Game 4, when Snyder made the tactical decision of going with a smaller starting lineup that featured Jae Crowder at power forward.
Snyder made the move to better match up with Houston, which often plays four perimeter players around center Clint Capela.
“It’s about doing what’s best for the team,” Favors said.
The Jazz went small again on Tuesday night for Game 5. Favors played eight minutes in the first half, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds.
With Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum sidelined with strained hamstrings, Jazz guards Raul Neto and Alec Burks were the beneficiaries. Neto played 11 minutes in the first half, but didn’t score, while going 0 of 4 from the field. Burks led the Jazz with 12 points.