A week ago, the Utah Jazz uncorked one of the greatest offensive sequences in team history, against the Milwaukee Bucks, when Royce O’Neale threw a pass to Bojan Bogdanovic, who caught it midair and, in one motion, turned it into a behind-the-back pounce pass to Donovan Mitchell in the corner. Donovan then threw this weird, hybrid hook shot/baseball pass into the opposite corner, where a sprinting Joe Ingles caught it, launched it, and sunk it to beat the shot clock.
My Trib coverage partner Andy Larsen wrote about how sublime it was that night. And Joe, when asked about it postgame, naturally made a joke about Donovan: “Usually … he’ll talk about how good he was at baseball as a kid and that’s why he can do it.”
It’s become the play that keeps on giving, though.
In his weekly appearance on the “DJ and PK” show on 1280/97.5 The Zone, the play was invoked, as was Joe’s light-hearted mocking of Donovan’s baseball prowess — which led the Aussie to reveal that a challenge has been issued and accepted, and a significant-stakes bet made (and later amended so that the loser will donate to the winner’s charity of choice). The slimmed-down version is basically thus:
“Donovan constantly talks about how good he is at baseball, and I was like, ‘I would 100% be able to hit one of your’ — what do you call it? a pitch? — ‘fastballs.’ Yeah. And he was like, ‘No you wouldn’t, no you wouldn’t.’ And I said, ‘Well, let’s bet.’ … The bet was, he had 10 pitches, and I had to connect on one of them. … I don’t even have to hit it, really — it just has to hit the bat and fall in front of me. … I’m not saying I’m going to smack him for a home run and run around the triangle thing with my shirt off.”
First off, Joe’s attempts to discuss baseball are fantastic — he was only wrong about Fernando Tatis Jr. being a pitcher, the diamond being a “triangle thing,” which he subsequently amended to “a sand pit,” and … well, pretty much everything else. Secondly, his confidence apparently stems from the fact that he’s played cricket at some points in his life. And third, Joe is apparently fed up with everyone (including, allegedly, most of his teammates) suggesting he’s going to lose.
As he was discussing how Donovan having to throw 10 pitches would work in his favor, because he’d be able to start timing them up and thus be able to connect, he also noted, “By, like, [pitch] six, seven, eight, he’s gonna get tired. He doesn’t play baseball for a living.”
When co-host Patrick Kinahan sagely pointed out, “Neither do you,” Joe hilariously went off.
“But I’m just standing there with a f------ bat! It makes me mad, because he thinks I can’t do it! I’m just standing there with a bat — all I have to do is connect one time. That’s it,” Joe said. “… I know I can’t run and jump and all that, but I can stand there and hit a ball.”
I heard the whole thing while driving in my car, and I thought I might need to pull over at one point. I was dying from laughing too hard. I can’t recommend highly enough listening to the whole thing.
The athletic exploits of Donovan, Part 2
Even as Joe is apparently looking for ways to prove his athletic ability, Donovan conceded you’re probably going to be seeing fewer athletic exploits from him going forward — his baseball challenge, notwithstanding.
More simply put: He intends to go for fewer dunks.
Asked after a practice this week about his reputation as a high-flyer, and what it means to him, the 24-year-old quipped, “I make the joke that I’m getting old, so I stopped dunking.”
More seriously, though, he said that while being revered for his dunking ability once “was my identity,” and that when he was younger, he didn’t care about having a well-rounded game so long as he got to dunk on people, he’s now taking a longer view.
“You start to play the minutes I’ve started playing, and you start to play into the playoffs, you learn something that all vets will tell you, which is to save your legs,” Donovan explained. “And I see why, I understand now. I don’t even dunk in warm-ups, which is crazy to me. But I just got to a point where you need to understand you’ve just got to save them for as much as you can, for as long as you can. … I’ve missed three dunks in three recent games, which tells you all you need to know.”
As always, if you have a Jazz, NBA, music, or total randomness question you want to see answered in this space, send me a tweet (@tribjazz, @esotericwalden) or an email (email@example.com).
We’re gonna limit this Q&A to one Q and one A this time, because it’s pretty much all anyone has asked me lately:
• “How many Jazz players are gonna get picked for the All-Star Game?” — Everyone and their mother
First off, I’ll note that after the ASG starters were announced Thursday night, Andy is making his picks for the reserves in a column here. (It should be noted that neither of us had an official media vote this season, so it’s just opinion with zero impact on the eventual outcome.) The reserves will officially be named Tuesday: two guards, three frontcourt players, and two “wild cards” from any position per conference.
I think it’s safe to say that Donovan and Rudy are stone-cold locks, no matter what nonsense is thrown out there about putting “guys who set screens” in the ASG. They’re excellent players having excellent seasons for the team with the best record in the league. I don’t see a legitimate case for either being left off.
As for everyone else …
Unfortunately, I don’t see a surefire case for anyone else making it.
I know a lot of Jazz fans have had memories of that Hawks team that sent four players (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver) to the game a few years back, and are drawing comparisons. Three things: That Hawks team was absolutely crushing the East (these Jazz lead the West by 2.5 games as of this writing), the Eastern Conference had less talent then than the West does now, and Korver was a suspect choice as an injury replacement.
Maaaaaybe Mike Conley makes it, owing to the combination of his ridiculous plus/minus numbers and rewarding the Jazz and sentimentality for never having made it before. But as good as he’s been, he’s averaging “only” 16.5 points and 5.8 assists on a balanced team. Given that Don and Damian Lillard are locks as the backcourt reserves, Mike would have to be a wild card. Does he make it over Devin Booker? Chris Paul? DeMar DeRozan? All of their teams have been successful and will warrant representation. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been pretty much a one-man team for the Thunder.
It’d be awesome for Mike to finally make it, even in this bizarre year, but I’m dubious it’ll happen. Meanwhile, all those aforementioned reasons have me even more convinced that Jordan Clarkson will be on the outside looking in. Coaches don’t like to put sixth men in the ASG — they just don’t. Also had one person repeatedly ask me about Bogey. He’s averaging 15 points and shooting 41.6% from the floor. C’mon now.
Would it be cool to see Quin Snyder be there with three or four of his players? Of course. I just think it’s highly unlikely.
The Weekly Top 5
My wife sometimes has bouts of insomnia, and will throw some British baking show or the Olympic Channel on the TV late at night to try to calm her mind and bring on some sleep. A few weeks ago, after some late-night showing of a bobsled competition in Germany wrapped up, one of those TimeLife infomercials apparently came on afterwards: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame box set.
Guess what I got for Valentine’s Day?
I love it — getting to see all these epic performances, these incredible collaborations between musicians who normally would not play together. I also love that it’s exposed me to musicians that, for whatever reason, I’ve simply never gotten to know very well. Thus, the inspiration for this week’s list:
Top 5 Artists/Bands I’m Going to Do a Deep Dive On
1. Elvis Costello. I think one time in my less-educated days, I heard one or two of his slower, mellower songs, like, say, “Shipbuilding” or “Indoor Fireworks,” and assumed all of his stuff was in that vein. Ha! Coincidentally, it was a guest spot he did that made me intrigued — his loosey-goosey vocal stylings on Jenny Lewis’ “Carpetbaggers” caught my ear. I’ve already begun to give some of his stuff a listen, and am impressed by his versatility: “Pump It Up” and “No Flag” are early faves.
2. Blondie. For all my love of punk music, I’ve never quite investigated the New Wave side of the movement as much. Pretty much everyone knows songs like “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me” and “One Way or Another.” But just watching Debbie Harry do her chameleonic thing is mesmerizing.
3. The Replacements. Noticing a theme? Lots of late-’70s/early-’80s acts with tangential ties to punk here, I’ll admit, though all with a bit more musicality. I know a few tracks here and there (I love “Bastards of Young”), but Bill Riley of ESPN 700 has given me a quick crash-course primer on stuff to immerse myself in that I’ll be getting to shortly.
4. Jeff Beck (Group)/Faces. Kinda cheating here in lumping together a solo artist, one of his bands, and an offshoot of that band, but whatever — it’s my list. Beck never had the same commercial success as fellow former Yardbirds guitarists Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, but he’s incendiary in his own right. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued to hear what he did alongside the likes of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, and what they did alongside the ex-members of The Small Faces.
5. R.E.M. Look, I know all their hits, OK? I already love a ton of their stuff. Which makes me realize that there’s likely a treasure trove of deep album cuts that I’ve been missing out on all this time. Michael Stipe’s haunting, urgent vocals and Peter Buck’s jangly guitars are just such a cool combination that I’ve got to discover what didn’t make onto some “Greatest Hits” compilation.