On what started as a celebratory day with Dwyane Wade joining the Utah Jazz ownership group and the crowd at Vivint Arena giving Wade a standing ovation during Friday’s matinee game against the Indiana Pacers, quickly turned more somber.
A scary moment silenced the crowd when Donovan Mitchell lay on the court after turning his ankle.
“It’s something that you never want to see happen, especially when it’s one of your teammates and one of your leaders,” fellow All-Star teammate Rudy Gobert said.
With just over eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Utah Jazz All-Star guard collided with Indiana Pacers guard Edmond Sumner. Mitchell jumped into the air in an attempt to deflect a fast break pass from Sumner into the front court. When Mitchell landed, his right foot got caught under Sumner’s leg and his ankle appeared to turn in a severe way.
Mitchell writhed on the court for a few moments before attempting to stand up but then collapsed into the arms of teammate Royce O’Neale in front of the Pacers bench. He couldn’t bear much weight on the right foot as he was slowly helped to the Jazz locker room.
Though the injury initially seemed severe, the Jazz later announced that Mitchell had a right ankle sprain and would not return to the game.
Mitchell will undergo an MRI on Friday night, but an initial diagnosis of an ankle sprain, and not something more serious, should come as a relief.
“Obviously we hope that it’s nothing serious,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after the Jazz’s 119-111 comeback win over the Pacers. “They’re in the process of doing everything they can do to assess that.”
Mitchell had originally agreed to speak with reporters after the game, something not required of players who leave a game with an injury, which was another good sign. But Mitchell later opted out of a postgame interview as postgame treatment on his ankle dragged on.
Gobert and Mike Conley said that they briefly saw Mitchell in the locker room after the game and that while Mitchell was obviously upset about the injury, he seemed to be in great spirits and was even cracking jokes with teammates.
With the NBA experiencing so many injuries, and especially in the wake of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray suffering a season-ending ACL tear on Tuesday, the fear of an injury that could seriously impact the team’s playoff hopes is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Though the severity of Mitchell’s injury remains to be determined, the Jazz are hoping for the best and preparing for what could be an extended period without him.
“Obviously Donovan is such a big part of what we do that, like any player that’s out, you miss him,” Snyder said. “But you try to figure out ways to play well and win, regardless of who’s available, because those things are going to happen. We have to be prepared for that, regardless of who it is.”
With just four weeks and 16 games left in the regular season and five weeks until the playoffs begin, the next question that needs answering will be how long before Mitchell can return to play.