Here’s how J.B. Bickerstaff played role in Donovan Mitchell being left off Team USA Olympic roster

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers 2023-24 season ended with a whimper in Wednesday’s night Game 5 against the Boston Celtics. Despite being severely undermanned, the Cavs remained competitive for much of the game.

However, they were outscored by eight points in the final frame and ended up losing, 113-98. Now, with the team looking towards an offseason filled with uncertainties, rumors looking back on the season are starting to gain traction.

One such rumor indicates that Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s usage of superstar guard Donovan Mitchell played a role in Mitchell ultimately being left off of the Team USA Olympic roster that will compete in this summer’s games in Paris.

“Bickerstaff’s usage of Mitchell, league sources said, was a reason Mitchell provided when declining an invitation to play for USA Basketball last summer at the FIBA World Cup — a refusal that went a long way toward his exclusion from the Olympic team,” Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic reported.

Mitchell was certainly heavily utilized in his first two seasons playing under Bickerstaff with the Cavs. During his first five seasons in the league, he only averaged more than 34 minutes per game in one season, his third season in the league.

With the Cavs, he’s never averaged less than 35.3 minutes per game. While that difference may seem marginal to the average fan, it’s not hard to understand why that increased usage would take its toll over an entire NBA season.

That toll was evident in the regular season and playoffs for Mitchell. He played in just 55 games in the 2023-24 regular season and dealt with a nagging bone bruise in his left knee. The injury forced him to miss many games, and he needed a platelet-rich plasma injection as a result of the injury as well.

His team’s playoff run ended with him on the bench due to a left calf strain. Clearly, his body was run down and running out of gas by the end of the season.

For that reason, it makes perfect sense why Mitchell might want to spend the offseason resting and getting his body right as opposed to competing in the international tournament. Still, representing his country in the Olympics would surely be a great honor, and being excluded from the team might be a tough pill for him to swallow.

As for his future with the Cavs, it seems very much in question. Multiple stories have circulated about his potential interest in continuing his career elsewhere. And there seems to be definite interest from other teams in acquiring the star guard.

His departure would be a major blow in the Cavs’ progression as playoff contenders.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Cavaliers Nation.