Spain v United States
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 16: Donovan Mitchell #53 of Team USA goes to the basket against Team Spain on August 16, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell leads Team USA with 13 points in a 90-81 win over Spain

by Aaron Falk

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — The scoreboard at the end of Team USA’s practice earlier this week raised some eyebrows. It read 36-17, the kind of lopsided affair you might expect when a squad of NBA stars with World Cup aspirations takes on a squad of players fighting for spots on NBA rosters. Only this day, Team USA’s stars were on the losing end.

The scrimmage brought even more questions for a version of Team USA that has already faced plenty of them.

But this U.S. squad wasn’t concerned.

“Nobody gave the whole perspective of what happened,” veteran forward PJ Tucker said the next day. They just threw the score up and said, ‘they lost.’ It was two quarters after we’d been playing for two hours. And they just came in fresh and everybody kind of … we played. We didn’t play a game. That was two quarters of practice and whatever. …

“It doesn’t matter. It matters when the game starts.”

Friday night’s game between the U.S. and Spain was only an exhibition, but the United States’ 90-81 victory over a talented Spanish team should be a reminder that this is still Team USA

“We did a lot of good things today,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We competed. We did well. We struggled a little down the stretch but we’ll clean it up and be ready for China.”

Point guard Kember Walker had 11 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Forward Khris Middleton had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.

“We have a bunch of guys that are willing to listen to each other,” Mitchell said. “It’s easy to come in and say, ‘It’s my show. It’s my show.’ I think a lot of our guys are willing to sacrifice for one another. You want to be on a team like that.”

Mitchell led a balanced Team USA in scoring with 13 points (5-of-10 shooting). He also had four rebounds in 23 minutes of play.

“I did all right,” Mitchell said. “I missed a lot of opportunities to find guys but I’m always hard on myself. I’m just continuing to build and jell with all of these guys. That’ll be really important.’

Mitchell may be his toughest critic. By all accounts, the Jazz guard has thoroughly impressed during his two weeks of Team USA training camp. Mitchell said he feels good after a productive and focused summer of work.

“I’ve just been taking it really seriously,” he said. “Last year, I went on my trips and I really didn’t work out. This summer, being able to control myself and do my workouts and being able to plan everything around my workouts, it’s been huge.”

Highlight of the Game

Donovan x Ricky

Just prior to tipoff, Spain’s point guard addressed the crowd in Spanish. Then he had a few words in English.

"For those of you who didn't understand what I said, Donovan is going to come over here and translate,” Ricky Rubio joked. “He's been learning for the last two years."

Maybe Rubio’s language lessons didn’t pay off, but the former Jazz point guard’s mentorship of Mitchell certainly did.

“It was huge. Mainly a lot of it was off the floor. But just being able to develop as a player, a point guard, finding guys, being more efficient. Not getting too high or getting too low, as you know, that’s one of his sayings,” Mitchell said.

The two guards are no longer teammates, but they remain friends. Rubio (and a few of his Spanish teammates) wore Mitchell’s adidas D.O.N. Issue #1s during Friday’s exhibition game.

“Being able to play against him, I think it’s pretty cool. He’s been wearing my shoe. Love is always going to be there for us,” Mitchell said. “It’s pretty special to have a guy like that who’s willing to take you in and help you in any way he possibly can.”

What’s next?

The U.S. will travel to Australia for two tune-up games against Joe Ingles and the Boomers next week. Forward PJ Tucker suffered a minor left ankle sprain on Thursday and withdrew from the U.S. team., leaving 14 players left on the training camp roster. The U.S. still has to make two more cuts before the World Cup roster will be finalized.

“It’s going to be tough,” Mitchell said. “We have guys who have become very close in these two weeks.”

The 14 remaining players:

Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)

Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)

De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)

Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)

Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs)

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