'I'm really here': Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell still coming to grips with trade

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell answers a question during an NBA basketball news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell answers a question during an NBA basketball news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

INDEPENDENCE – A Cavaliers fan since he was young, Donovan Mitchell doesn’t know if he will flash back to his childhood when he puts the jersey on for the first time Wednesday.

A three-time All-Star guard acquired from the Utah Jazz in a blockbuster trade on Sept 1, Mitchell makes his Cavs debut in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

His mother, Nicole, who lives in the New York area, will be in the stands at the Wells Fargo Center. Friends he grew up with have courtside seats. Born in Elmsford, New York, and now making his home in Connecticut, Mitchell is sure others will text him at the last minute as they usually do when his team makes East Coast trips.

“They will be like ‘Hey, I’m there,’ and I’m like, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any tickets for you,’” Mitchell said Tuesday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Mitchell is used to that. But joining the team that prompted him to use cavsfan as a past email address still hasn’t sunk in.

“To be honest, it really hasn’t hit me that I’m here. It probably won’t until the first home game,” he said as the Cavs open the preseason at home on Monday, with the regular season home opener set for Oct. 23. “Sometimes I'll catch myself in the house like, ‘Holy s--t. I see what my life is like. I’m really here.’

“When I put that jersey on, get out there and play with these guys, hear your name called … it’ll be different, but it's exciting. It's a new beginning, it’s a new step and I’m excited for it.”

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell poses for photographs with his mother, Nicole, after his introductory press conference at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell poses for photographs with his mother, Nicole, after his introductory press conference at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Spending the past five years with the Jazz, Mitchell reached the playoffs every season. He’s trying to help the Cavs achieve that goal after they were eliminated in the play-in tournament in April.

Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be mindful of preseason minutes and said a rotation of Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert will “get a couple runs.”

The spotlight will be on Mitchell, especially when he plays alongside point guard Garland, a first-time All-Star last season. Mitchell averaged 25.9 points and 5.3 assists in 2021-22 for the Jazz, Garland 21.7 points and 8.6 assists for the Cavs.

Mitchell said the partnership has been “seamless,” but there are nuances that must be sorted out.

“We’re very unselfish in a way, we try to help each other and … sometimes it’s too much, but not in a bad way,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes you overtry, oversharing. Sometimes taking that shot is the shot in that possession for us as opposed to trying to get one more.

“Or on the defensive end, our communication. As much as I’ve been talking and sharing, giving my input on what I’ve seen, he’s doing the same thing right back to me and also to the group. There’s things that we can obviously still work on and get better at.”

Cleveland Cavaliers Jarett Allen, Evan Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Kevin Love pose for a photo during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Cleveland Cavaliers Jarett Allen, Evan Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Kevin Love pose for a photo during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

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Mitchell, 26, realizes Garland, 22, might feel deferential towards him, but that’s not the best in every case.

“You want to be great, you want to help each other be great. But sometimes being great is like, ‘You’re a bad dude, too. Go ahead and attack,’” Mitchell said. “And I’m the same way.

“We understand where each other likes to get the ball, starting to figure those things out. And also just being vocal with each other and with our team.”

Evan Mobley not expected to miss Cleveland Cavaliers' regular season opener

Eastern Conference: Nets center Andre Drummond (0) tries to dunk but draws the foul on Cavaliers defender Evan Mobley (4) during the first half.
Eastern Conference: Nets center Andre Drummond (0) tries to dunk but draws the foul on Cavaliers defender Evan Mobley (4) during the first half.

Evan Mobley is not expected to miss the Cavs’ regular season opener on Oct. 19 at Toronto after spraining his right ankle Saturday, Bickerstaff said.

The 7-foot center/forward who was runner-up in 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year voting was hurt during five-on-five work at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“He drove to the basket and went to go finish and landed on a foot coming down,” Bickerstaff said.

The Cavs announced Monday that Mobley was expected to miss one to two weeks. The Cavs play four preseason games, the last on Oct. 14 at Orlando.

Asked if he was concerned about Mobley’s availability for the opener, Bickerstaff said, “Not now. Obviously we see how he responds to all that. We'll always be safe with our guys, but right now there isn’t a concern that he would miss the start of the season.”

Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley, left, and forward Isaiah Mobley poses for a portrait during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley, left, and forward Isaiah Mobley poses for a portrait during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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Mobley sprained his left ankle during the Cavs’ stretch run in 2021-22, missing five games from March 30-April 5.

Bickerstaff already planned to tinker in the preseason as he searches for the Cavs’ best rotations, many involving Mobley.

“We would love to have him because we understand that he's going to be a big focal point of what we're doing. And a lot of the lineups, kind of revolve around him,” Bickerstaff said. “But it gives other people an opportunity to play different spots, and get more minutes and more reps and allows us to get more things on film that we can kind of dissect.”

Mobley, 21, seemed to take the injury in stride, Bickerstaff said.

“He's obviously frustrated, but in Evan fashion, he's fine,” Bickerstaff said. “He doesn't do the emotional roller coaster. He got hurt, now he knows what he has to do to get better. That's what he's focused on.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cavs Donovan Mitchell coming to grips with blockbuster trade