Donovan Mitchell learning from Kemba Walker and the other NBA stars at Team USA training camp

by Aaron Falk

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. — Donovan Mitchell is eager to learn. The Utah Jazz guard has regularly sought out advice from NBA superstars, from Chris Paul to Paul George to James Harden, during the first two seasons of his budding career. This week, Mitchell hasn’t had to go far to find someone who can teach him something new.

“I’ve picked pretty much everybody’s brain here,” Mitchell said after wrapping up another day of Team USA practice in Los Angeles this week.

Mitchell could look to his right and see Milwaukee’s All-Star forward Khris Middleton.

“He’s a guy whose midrange game is really unique,” Mitchell. “I’m just finding things to ask of him.”

Across one of the practice courts at the UCLA Health Training Center stood Boston’s new All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.

“I talk to Kemba a lot,” Mitchell said. “It’s great being able to pick his brain, just find ways to be a better point guard, how to get over pick-and-rolls, finding guys that are open.

“… I’m just finding ways to better myself and I appreciate that he lets me pick his brain and ask questions. I ask a thousand questions. It might get annoying or overwhelming, but I try as much as I can to get better and push myself.”

Mitchell’s USA teammates have been anything but bothered by the Jazz guard through their first week and a half of training camp.

“I just love his energy. I love his energy, man,” Walker said. “It’s been every day, every practice. No slacking off. His passion for the game is top notch.”

Walker and Mitchell have been a prominent backcourt pairing for the USA and head coach Gregg Popovich to this point in training camp. The Celtics star has found it easy to play alongside Mitchell.

“We’ve been really good, me and Donovan,” Walker said. “A lot of communication with each other. We’re trying our best to take a leadership role, communicating with each other and the other guys. I think me and him are the guys that have to set that tone early on. We’ve noticed that. We’ve got that pop, that energy, that enthusiasm.”

Mitchell has faced off against his USA teammates plenty. He has known Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox since high school. Others have seen what he’s been able to do against their NBA squads during his first two seasons. But as they’ve played with him and watched him in practice, Mitchell’s teammates have a new appreciation for his approach to the game.

“He’s been great,” said Denver Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee. “You appreciate his talent right away, his athleticism, his ability to get to the rim and rise up and knock down shots. He’s fun to play with.”

Added Middleton, “He’s a young leader. He’s wise way beyond his years, I feel like. He’s a guy who wants to lead and be the best player he can. And he wants to elevate the players around him. When you have those qualities in a player like that, at such a young age, there’s nothing but the best coming for that guy.”

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