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Donovan Mitchell practices with the Utah Jazz, is on track for Game 1 return

All-Star guard says he hasn’t sat out this long with an injury since his sophomore year in high school

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) waits for the game to start as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies, Mar. 26, 2021 at Vivint Arena.

After going through a full practice on Thursday, Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell said that, “barring any setbacks,” he plans to play in the Jazz’s Game 1 matchup against either the Golden State Warriors or the Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell sprained his ankle in an unusual collision with Indiana Pacers wing Edmond Sumner on April 16, and was ruled out on a week-by-week basis since then. On Thursday, Mitchell said that the injury “wasn’t as minor as it was made out to be.”

In particular, while the injury may have looked potentially more significant, even the relative good news of a sprained ankle diagnosis still cost Mitchell an entire month on the court — and with his teammates. Mitchell spent most of his time during the injury rehabbing his ankle, rather than traveling on road trips.

“It definitely was a tough process just for me, I haven’t been out this long since my 10th grade year in high school,” Mitchell said. “It’s a mental game as much as a physical one.”

But Mitchell said he didn’t have any pain in his ankle after practicing on it for the first time, just expected soreness. Jazz coach Quin Snyder did notice more fatigue from Mitchell in his first practice, which caused the guard to take a possession out of practice here and there.

“The biggest thing is he’s out there and there’s always going to be some cobwebs, but he’s in a good place mentally,” Snyder said. “The overriding thing for Don is that he’s listening to his body and that’ll determine where he is.”

Mitchell said he hadn’t had a conversation with the team’s coaches or medical staff about whether or not he could play a full allotment of minutes for Sunday’s Game 1.

“I feel like I’m ready to play 48 minutes, but at the end of the day, you got to be smart, because you can go out there and re-injure it as well,” Mitchell said.

Perhaps the good news for the Jazz is how much distance there is between games in the Jazz’s series. The Jazz play the NBA’s final Game 1 on Sunday, then will take two full days off before their Game 2 on Wednesday. Then, they’ll take an additional two days off before playing in Game 3 on the road on Saturday, May 29. Those extra days could give Mitchell a chance to recover from any lingering soreness after the intensity of a playoff game.

According to Mitchell, Sumner approached him after the injury and apologized for the collision, expressing that he didn’t mean to kick out his leg in the way that caused Mitchell’s ankle to turn. And Mitchell said he wasn’t frustrated about the incident.

“I think everything happens in life for a reason; I’m one of those people. I think this allowed me to grow in certain instances,” Mitchell said. “It allowed guys on our team to grow as well ... Guys like Bojan [Bogdanovic] stepped up huge, Georges [Niang] has been huge — guys’ confidence levels rose.”

The Jazz’s All-Star guard averaged 26.4 points per game, along with 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per contest in the 53 games he was able to play this season. The Jazz had a 39-14 record in the games he played.

Notes:

• On Twitter, Jazz minority owner Dwyane Wade was asked by a fan whether or not he’ll be able to come to Vivint Arena for one of the team’s playoff games — he indicated that he would.

• The Grizzlies and Warriors will play at 7 p.m. MT Friday at Golden State’s Chase Center for the right to play the Jazz. The loser will be eliminated for the season, while the winner will fly to Salt Lake City on Saturday.

• One tidbit from ESPN Kevin Pelton’s article on the Jazz’s playoff odds today: the Jazz’s home-court advantage was worth 3.4 points per game this season, ranking in the top three in the NBA.


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