During the NBA offseason, it is quite common for teammates to hold unofficial practices and workouts to make sure that the chemistry they need to succeed on the court does not dissipate. But when former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had the chance to take part in such workouts with his former teammates in the 2022 offseason, he opted to train on his own.
Last summer was one of major upheaval for the Jazz franchise. The organization traded away Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves in early July. That essentially signaled to Mitchell that his days with the franchise were numbered. As a result, he decided to train alone in Miami.
“Stories of summer workouts are common at the highest levels of the NBA, but last summer wasn’t just about building stamina,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote regarding Mitchell’s offseason. “Mitchell was angry at the end of last season. Angry that the Utah Jazz had a disappointing year. Angry at the talk about relationships with teammates. Angry the team was planning a rebuild that included jettisoning him in hopes for a better future.
“He’d watched some of his peers catapult around him. Devin Booker in Phoenix. Ja Morant in Memphis. Jayson Tatum in Boston. Trae Young in Atlanta. These guys were on the All-NBA team, and Mitchell wasn’t.
“When it became clear his days in Utah were numbered after the Jazz traded Rudy Gobert on July 1, Mitchell canceled plans to join the team for workouts at summer league in Las Vegas and went to Miami instead.
“He didn’t know where he’d be, maybe he’d even start the year in Utah, but he knew he wanted to come back with a different energy. For those two months, he trained harder than ever before. Even when he took an island vacation, he found a five-star resort that also had a basketball court.
“It was a mental, physical and emotional cleansing.”
As Cleveland Cavaliers fans know quite well, Mitchell was ultimately acquired by the franchise for a slew of talented players and future draft picks. Though the price tag was quite high for Mitchell, there is very little doubt that he was worth it.
No better proof of that came on Monday night, as Mitchell made Cavs history with an iconic performance. In an overtime thriller versus the Chicago Bulls, Mitchell dropped 71 points to lead his team to victory. No player in Cavs history has ever scored more in a single game.
Though the Cavs needed some late-game heroics from Mitchell to get to the extra frame, they dominated in overtime on their way to a 145-134 win. Along with his 71 points, Mitchell added 11 assists and eight rebounds as well.
Scoring 71 is obviously an outlier, but Mitchell has had many nights already with the Wine and Gold that have made it clear that the front office’s decision to acquire him was absolutely the right one. It’s been fantastic to watch him ball out so far this season, and it really seems as though the sky is the limit for the young and talented Cavs.