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Donovan Mitchell earned a max extension, yes, but first-round loss to Nuggets still eating away at him

After taking a 3-1 lead in their playoff series with Denver, the Jazz let it slip away. Mitchell has used the setback as a motivating force during the offseason

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, center, goes up to shoot as Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant, left, and Paul Millsap, right, defend during NBA first-round playoff game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla, on Aug. 30, 2020. Mitchell agreed Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, to a five-year, $163 million extension to remain with the Jazz.
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Donovan Mitchell just signed a max contract extension with the Utah Jazz worth a guaranteed $163 million, but that’s not really what he’s thinking about these days.

There’s something else. A nagging voice in the back of his mind. A reminder of unfinished business.

We blew a 3-1 lead.

Sure, Mitchell lit up on one of the biggest sports stages, put on dazzling 50-plus point performances in the playoffs, and secured the kind of money that means his family will never have to worry about anything financially ever again.

We blew a 3-1 lead.

It’s not that he’s not grateful.

Mitchell understands how lucky he is to be one of four from the 2017 draft class to sign a max deal and he feels very fortunate. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the Jazz have fallen short in the playoffs, most recently being booted from the NBA bubble at the end of the first round in September after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets.

“We lost. That’s really where my head is at,” Mitchell said on Friday via Zoom. “I’m not saying I’m not extremely humbled and blessed to have this opportunity, but now that my family is taken care of I’m really at a point where it’s like we need to win and find ways to do that.”

Mitchell has enjoyed the offseason, working out in Miami alongside teammate and friend Royce O’Neale. But even when he’s lounging on a boat, soaking up the Florida sun, he’s watching film from the Denver series. He’s analyzing the matchup with Jamal Murray, recognizing the value of slowing the game down, going over what went wrong, then going over it again, and figuring out what needs to change so that he never has to say that the Jazz blew a 3-1 lead ever again.

The Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles (2) and Donovan Mitchell stay on the floor after their 80-78 loss to the Denver Nuggets during an NBA first round in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mitchell has used the disappointment and frustration of losing that series as a motivating force during his offseason workouts.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The depth of the team is one thing, and Mitchell thinks that having Bojan Bogdanovic healthy, along with a bench highlighted by Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Favors and promising rookies will give the Jazz more of a fighting chance.

But Mitchell thinks there’s something else that’s holding the Jazz back: consistency.

“We kind of tend to fluctuate,” he said. “You look at the 3-1 lead as an example, we got up, things changed and we stopped. All of us, you know, we stopped doing little things that got us to that point.”

That consistency has to start now with the work the players are doing in the offseason, maintaining health and cutting out distractions, and continue through training camp, preseason and the regular season in order for the Jazz to habitually be consistent when the postseason rolls around.

“We have to continue to be as perfect as we can be for all 72 games, the first round, second round, conference finals, championship.”

The Jazz blew a 3-1 lead, but it’s fueling Mitchell to do more and live up to the max deal that the Jazz have committed to.

It’s that team-first mentality and need to improve that has permeated through the Jazz locker room and has the Jazz over the moon about having a guy like Mitchell under contract for at least the next five years.

“Donovan has a genuine selflessness that helps define our goals as a team, he is also as competitive of a player that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said in a statement released by the team announcing Mitchell’s contract extension. “On a personal level he has the unique ability to positively impact all of the people he touches, not just in Utah, but in all of his communities. I couldn’t be more excited to take the next steps with Donovan as we continue to strive to achieve our goals.”

Mitchell’s new contract includes a clause that will increase the full value of the deal from $163 million to $195.6 million if Mitchell makes an All-NBA team this season. Though Mitchell acknowledged that making an All-NBA team is a personal goal, he waived off any notion that it was something of particular importance. The extra $32 million would be nothing for him compared to a title.

“Honestly, at the end of the day, if we win a championship that doesn’t matter to me,” Mitchell said.

That’s the goal.