CLEVELAND- Donovan Mitchell he disagrees that the now divided core of the Utah Jazz “didn’t really believe in each other,” as team CEO Danny Ainge put it earlier this week.
“I don’t think we didn’t believe (in each other),” Mitchell told ESPN Wednesday on his first day in Cleveland as a Cavalier after a Sept. 1 trade. “I said at the end of the season, don’t trade (Rudy Gobert). Let’s figure this out, let’s do it. And that didn’t happen. For him to say that after six months on the team, I disagree. But you know, at the end of the day, that’s his call.”
Ainge, who was hired last December, traded Gobert to the Timberwolves in a draft pick-focused blockbuster in July and also traded defensive specialist Royce O’Neale in a separate draft pick before trading Mitchell to the Cavs on September 1.
While the Cavs had been one of the teams Mitchell knew had made an offer for him, he said he was surprised when they sent him to Cleveland instead of his hometown New York Knicks. Mitchell said that in the few days before the deal went through, he had been led to believe that he was close to becoming a Knick.
“Very close, I’ll say no more than I know a little bit more than most, but definitely very close,” Mitchell said. “I was really excited when they traded me (to the Cavs), but we were, I was close (to the Knicks).”
After trade talks initially fell through, Cavs president Koby Altman re-signed the Jazz in late August after the Knicks and Jazz were able to come to an agreement. Altman and Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, who have completed five trades in the last five seasons, put together the final deal in less than 48 hours. The Cavs traded three unprotected first-round picks, two pick trades and three young players for Mitchell.
“We have a great relationship with Utah,” Altman said. “We just stayed. And when they decided to pivot (away from the Knicks) we were there.”
Mitchell arrived at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland around 9 am Wednesday to a group of more than 200 fans, who were waiting with Cavs officials. He then participated in his first unofficial training session with teammates in the city preparing for the start of training camp. Mitchell got time on the court with his All-Star teammates darius garland Y Jarrett Allenas well as Rookie of the Year finalist, Evan Mobley.
“We can really build something special,” said Mitchell, who has worked with Garland this summer. “I’m excited to play with this team, play for this city, play with these guys and just go out and compete and win.”
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Mitchell is confident they will build something special at Cavs