WASHINGTON — Fans oohed and awed when Donovan Mitchell threw down a windmill dunk off an alley-oop pass from Jordan Clarkson late in the third quarter on Saturday night. It’s the kind of highlight play that will make the rounds on television and social media for the next 24 hours.
But shortly after the game was over and after rewatching the clip, Mitchell had a different opinion of how his dunk looked.
“Just disgusting,” he said, shaking his head. “Bad.”
In the seconds leading up to the dunk both Mitchell and Clarkson were imagining something more spectacular.
Clarkson had visions of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James catching off-the-glass passes for huge dunks. Mitchell was thinking about a huge leaning windmill that would be aesthetically pleasing from all angles.
“I was tired, but I had in my mind that I was going to put all my energy into it,” Mitchell said. “And then he threw it up.”
Clarkson’s lob went into the air and he dropped all notions of trying to replicate legendary plays and just hoped that they weren’t going to blow a fast break opportunity.
“It kind of went downhill from there,” Clarkson said with a laugh. “First thing I thought was throw it off the glass, but then I was like, nah we can’t do this, we’ve got to score in transition right now. I just hope he makes this dunk.”
Since Mitchell suffered a severely sprained ankle late last season, he’s become hyper aware of where he lands and how he lands. He’s mentioned a few times this season that it’s almost like he has PTSD and it’s made him cautious. So when he went up for the dunk, there was a split second where he thought that he might land on Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who was chasing on the play.
“I didn’t know where Brad’s body was so I didn’t want to land on him and I was nervous about that,” Mitchell said. “Ever since I hurt my ankle I get real cautious of what’s under me. ... If you watch, my body kind of goes away from the rim, but I was like, let’s just try it because I haven’t showed off any bounce.”
It’s true that Mitchell hasn’t had as many athletic plays this season, and his teammates haven’t let him off the hook for it.
“He hasn’t had too many dunks this year and we give him a lot of (expletive) for that,” Clarkson said. “But he scored that one and I’m just happy he made it.”
But for Mitchell, adding insult to injury was the fact that in the first quarter the crowd had already seen a nearly perfect windmill dunk from Wizards big man Daniel Gafford. So in comparison, Mitchell was not pleased with his form.
“It looked nasty, I’m really mad about how it looked,” Mitchell said. “It looks disgusting. It didn’t look like Daniel Gafford’s, I’ll tell you that.”
Maybe next time.