On Wednesday afternoon, former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell was formally introduced as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At his introductory press conference, a few opportunities arose for him to discuss what has been quite the summer, as he was a main focal point of discussion throughout the NBA for a number of months.
Of particular note, Mitchell acknowledged that he was expecting to get traded to his hometown New York Knicks, which was widely speculated for months, but he said he’s extremely happy to be on a young Cleveland team that doubled its win total last season from the season before.
“All summer, I didn’t really say much ... I thought for sure I was going back home, I’m not gonna lie about that,” Mitchell said, “but when I found out where I was headed, who I was playing with, the group, the team, the coaching staff, I couldn’t be happier to be here, to be a part of this organization, be a part of this group, to join these phenomenal guys and add to it, and I think that for me is what I’m truly excited about.”
Mitchell was asked with a few variations about whether or not he expected to get traded and what he thought about the Jazz’s offseason, which saw them trade Mitchell’s fellow All-Star Rudy Gobert in June.
“Once Rudy got traded, I kind of saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “I think we all did, and I think we understood we had a good run.
“I kind of had a feeling I was going to get moved. Like I said, I thought it was New York, I’m not gonna lie to y’all ... it would have been nice, but like I said, for me, once I found out I got traded and what we’re going into, that trumped everything for me.”
On if he was surprised that the Jazz traded both him and Gobert, Mitchell said, “Yes and no. I had a feeling ... there’s always articles about it, about what could happen. No matter how much you try to ignore it ... we see it, but that wasn’t a thought during (last season).
“After we lost, that wasn’t a thought for a little bit. That’s pretty much every question I was asked after we lost, and I really wasn’t thinking about it ... obviously it happened and things change and I’m blessed.”
In an interview with ESPN, Mitchell disputed what Utah Jazz CEO of Basketball Danny Ainge had to say about the team on on Monday.
“What I saw during the season was a group of players that really didn’t believe in each other, like the whole group. I think they liked each other, even more than it was reported, but I’m not sure there was a belief,” Ainge said. “The belief in one another wasn’t as great as teams I’ve been on and around and that I’ve seen.”
Mitchell didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think we didn’t believe (in each other),” Mitchell told ESPN on Wednesday. “I said at the end of the season, don’t trade (Rudy Gobert). Let’s figure this out, let’s do. And that didn’t happen. For him to say that after six months around the team, I disagree. But you know, at the end of the day, that’s his decision.”