With Jazz great Darrell Griffith watching, Donovan Mitchell did a 'little something extra' in win over Dallas
Dressed in a purple throwback uniform, Donovan Mitchell paid homage to a Utah Jazz legend with his play Wednesday night.
“Had to do a little something extra ’cause he was in the building,” Mitchell said.
The second-year Jazz guard finished with 23 points and seven assists in a 117-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Two of those points came on a highlight-reel slam at the end of the second quarter that impressed Darrell Griffith, Dr. Dunkenstein himself.
Mitchell has followed in Griffith’s footsteps, playing collegiately at Louisville and then being drafted by Utah, and the former great has followed the rising star’s journey closely.
“It’s always a thrill watching him,” Griffith said. “Knowing where he came from at Louisville and watching him out here and how his game has progressed, I enjoy watching him every time.”
And Dr. Dunkenstein enjoyed what he saw Wednesday night.
The Jazz got off to a slow start to the season and, coming into Wednesday night, the team was still looking for its first home win. With Griffith in the crowd, Mitchell and company delivered.
“The halftime dunk,” Griffith said when asked for his favorite play of the game. “That tip dunk, that was common. That halftime dunk …”
That was something that even surprised Mitchell a little. Mitchell’s status had been in question because of a sprained left ankle, but he looked perfectly fine as he crossed Dallas rookie Luka Doncic and finished the play with a slam dunk over two defenders.
“Because of the ankle I didn’t think about dunking,” Mitchell said. “I just went up. It just happened. I wanted to go right, to be honest with you. A lot of times, those plays you don’t think you just do.”
Griffith, however, has expected big things from Mitchell from the start. Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino pointed Mitchell out to Griffith at a practice during Mitchell’s freshman season. “That guy’s going to be special. He reminds me of you,” Pitino told Griffith. That got the former Jazz star’s attention.
“I started to really pay attention to him, watching him play,” Griffith said. “I’d see similarities. After practice, I’d talk to him, what he needed to do to his game.”
“The jump shot was the biggest thing,” Mitchell said.
The two men stay in touch throughout the NBA season and Griffith is there to offer words of advice when he feels the young star needs it.
“We talk when it’s necessary,” Griffith said. “But I pretty much just let him do his thing. He knows what to do. He’s done a good job of incorporating what he needs to do on this level. He just needs to realize that this year he’s got a bullseye on his back. They know that he’s coming.”
Mitchell knows things are different, for himself and his team, after last year’s sensational season.
“We all kind of feel that way,” he said. “We all do. We’re not the underdog that way anymore. People know who we are. So for me personally, I’m just trying to go out there and learn and adapt to every situation. It’s tougher obviously, but I’m working on it.
“The biggest thing I’ve been working on his just finding the open man. Last year was kind of tunnel vision. Now everybody’s going to be looking for that drive and guys are going to be wide open. I’m just trying to find ways to continue to pass and continuing to be consistent in every aspect of my game.”
“It just makes you be more creative,” Griffith added. “He’ll do well.”