‘How ’Bout This Jazz’ newsletter: Donovan Mitchell goes on a calm but polite rant about the refs

Plus: Hassan Whiteside reflects on his time in Utah, and a certain All-Star guard talks trash to a certain beat writer

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) chats with referee Derrick Collins (11), in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls, at Vivint Arena, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Donovan Mitchell was so angry about the officiating in the third quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Bulls that he almost punched a referee in the head.

On accident, of course. After a missed layup and a no-call, Don demonstratively swung his fist through the air, to let his displeasure be known. Except that ref Marat Kogut was precariously close. Still, Don was determined to get T’d up, and after allowing the Bulls’ power-play transition opportunity to unfold, Kogut obliged him.

Asked afterward what he was feeling in that moment, the star guard shared a brief conversation he had with the team’s owner.

“I told Ryan Smith I’m gonna get fined today and he’ll have to pay for it,” Mitchell recounted.

Jokes aside, he went on to explain in a calm-but-firm rant that he feels defenders are being allowed to get away with excessive contact on plays where he goes to the hoop.

“I’m intentionally trying to get to the basket, get to the free-throw line, and I’m airballing layups — that’s not me. And I just felt like, at that point, I just had to sound off because it was just getting ridiculous,” he said. “… I’m not going to make this solely a ‘Donovan being officiated different’ thing, but I do feel there are times when I don’t get to those calls, and I was tired of it.

“I am tired of it because I’m working my a-- off to get downhill and try to create [for] our offense,” Don added. “… I’m constantly being hand-checked or stopped with two hands because I’m so strong. That can’t keep continuing to happen. It leads to turnovers, bad shots … it puts everyone in a bad spot.”

We’ll see if any money has to be shelled out for the outburst, but it did have one unquestionably positive outcome for the Jazz: A fired-up Don hit seven 3-pointers in the quarter and scored 25 points in the 12-minute span.

Hassan reflects on his short time in Utah

When he’s in a talkative and playful mood, Hassan Whiteside is one of the best interviews on the Jazz. And he was in just such a mood ahead of a recent shootaround, so we got to pick his brain about all sorts of stuff. Some of his most thoughtful comments, though, were about the brief time he’s spent with the organization, and the sacrifices that has entailed:

“I embraced the role. … Put any pride I might have to the side. I might not get post-ups, I might not get the ball as much — this is the least I’ve shot the ball my whole career,” he said. “But I’m OK with that — I didn’t come here to try and average 20 and 15, to get crazy numbers. I wanted to come here and be part of something, a winning program.”

As for the experience of living in Beehive State, well, he had kinda-sorta good things to say about that, too, in his own unique way:

“There’s a lot more to do in Utah than I thought.”

Getting trash-talked by Donovan Mitchell

You know what I love most about this job? Besides getting paid to watch basketball games? The random interactions I sometimes get to have with people on the team. For example …

I am a longtime fan of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Mitchell is a longtime fans of the New York Mets. National League East rivals! It’s made for some fun banter during my time covering the Jazz. A year or two ago when we were doing only Zoom interviews, he had just begun to answer a question I’d asked him, when he suddenly stopped and changed gears: “Eric, you gotta stop talking s--- about the Mets!” I about died laughing.

Fast forward to this week. The Mets have been making some moves … Don has been jubilant … my fellow beat writer Tony Jones (who, like Don, is a Mets fan) has been loudly proclaiming that New York is going to dethrone Atlanta, the reigning World Series champs. And on Wednesday night, after the Jazz have beaten the Chicago Bulls, and Don has wrapped a 10-minute media session, he stands up, takes a couple steps toward the door, and suddenly stops.

“Oh, wait,” he mumbles, before looking around for somebody before settling upon me, and then pointing right at me. “Hey, Eric … sorry about Freddie Freeman!” Donovan Mitchell, star of the Utah Jazz, had just trash-talked me about the longtime star of my baseball team leaving in free agency. I about died laughing again.