If you thought Donovan Mitchell was headed to the New York Knicks, you’re not alone.
The All-Star guard assumed he’d be at Madison Square Garden to start this season, too.
“All summer, I didn’t really say much. I kind of let you guys do what you guys do,” Mitchell told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “I thought for sure I was going back home. I’m not going to lie about that.”
But Mitchell has now arrived in Cleveland, where hoards of happy fans were eagerly awaiting him this week.
“We’ve always admired his game from afar,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said. “We have a great relationship with Utah and my counterpart over there, Justin Zanik, who I’m pretty close with. I would just describe it as we hung around and hung around and hung around and when they decided to pivot, we were there.”
The former Utah Jazz star was introduced in Ohio Wednesday. Here’s what he said at his introductory news conference:
Was he surprised the Jazz decided to rebuild?
“Yes and no. I had a feeling. You guys do what you guys do and there are always articles about what could happen. It doesn’t matter how much you try to ignore it. You can’t be naive. We all have phones, we have technology, we have Twitter, we have Instagram. We see it but it wasn’t a thought during the year. After we lost, it wasn’t a thought for a little bit.”
How interested was he in going to the Knicks?
“All summer, I didn’t say much. For me, once Rudy [Gobert] got traded I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I think we all did. I think we understood that we had a good run. I kind of had a feeling I was going to get moved. I thought it was New York. … Obviously, who doesn’t want to be home next to their mom? I haven’t lived at home since I was in the eighth grade; I was at boarding school. It would have been nice. But once I found out I got traded and what we’re getting into, that trumped everything for me. I’m truly excited to be here, be a part of this group, be a part of this city.”
On going from one cold-weather small market to another
“I love the cold. It’s not a problem. I think I dress better in the cold. But, no, it’s not about market size for me. It’s about winning basketball. All the off the court stuff will take care of itself when you win games, no matter where you are. That’s first and foremost for me. Then, coming here, not only do we have a great team … but I can go watch some baseball games and some football games and I know a few guys on both teams. So it will be good to get around, see things, be a 26-year-old and have fun.”
How did his leadership style grow in Utah?
“I think Ricky [Rubio] was huge. But I came in just trying to be who I am, being vocal, lead by example. I’m very grateful for my teammates in Utah who allowed a 21-year-old to, not tell them what to do, but to be that leader, to be a guy who was vocal. Typically, that’s not always the case in life, in business. … For me, I’m forever grateful for that.”
On learning about the trade
“I found out who we kept in the deal and I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got a talented group.’ … Now we can only look to do more and better and just continue to win and build. I’m truly excited to be part of this organization, to be here in this city, to have fun playing basketball with a group of guys who really wants to win. We’re young but we’re hungry and we’re ready. It’s weird to think I’m probably one of the older guys on the team.”
Can the Cavs contend for a title?
“There’s no reason [why not]. For us, we have to go out there and do the work. On paper, we look scary but at the end of the day, it comes down to what we do in the gym.”
Are there similarities between Gobert and 7-footers Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley?
“The more the merrier. For me, J.A. and Ev, they got my shot a few times. Rudy’s one of the best bigs in the league on the defensive end.”