Donovan Mitchell guaranteed a victory.
Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long had other plans. The two Iowa State Cyclones combined for 18 points to win the 3-point contest at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Friday night, as thousands of fans turned out for a chance to meet the Utah Jazz before the start of the NBA season.
“After going through a whole week of training camp, being here in front of the best fans in the country is great,” Mitrou-Long said.
The Jazz will tipoff their preseason schedule Saturday night, when they host the Perth Wildcats from the Australian Basketball League. So Friday was one last chance to cut loose.
Fans lined up outside the arena hours before doors opened for the free event — and the night did not disappoint. Grayson Allen and the rest of the team’s rookies danced. Joe Ingles talked loads of trash. And Jazz Nation got its first live look at the throwback Classic Edition jerseys.
“We look good in purple,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Coming off a 48-win season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs, excitement for the season has been high.
“We’ve talked about last year and the enthusiasm that we finished the year with,” Snyder told sideline reporter Kristen Kenney. “Not only would we like to build on that, but this is a new journey, so to speak. The expectations that come with starting something new are exciting.”
Friday night started with hundreds of Junior Jazz players running through drills and taking photographs on the court.
About 5:30, 11-year-old Wyatt Page arrived in a limousine and bumped into Mitchell in the arena’s parking lot.
“I was speechless,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt, an Eagle Mountain boy, is hoping for an even better season than last year from his favorite team. He will be enjoying it no matter what. In March, Wyatt was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Two surgeries and 33 rounds of radiation treatment later, Wyatt’s latest scans have come back cancer free. On Friday night, with help from the Jazz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Wyatt was the guest of honor. He met with the team before the event and sat with his favorite players on the bench during the 3-point contest.
“You can have Rudy’s spot,” Ingles offered.
Part of the buzz on Friday at the arena was happening at the grand opening of the new Utah Jazz Nike Team Store. The Jazz join the Portland Trail Blazers as the only two teams in the league to have their own Nike stores in their arenas.
“The product that’s in here, a lot of it will be exclusive to just this location,” said Morgan Evans, the store’s director of retail operations. “You can’t get it online. You can’t get it another store. You’ve got to come here.”
The store also features the life-sized mannequin of Rudy Gobert that had previously been in the main team store.
“It’s a huge attraction,” Evans said. “People love to come and take pictures of it. It’s a great centerpiece.”
The real life Gobert, meanwhile, got a chance on Friday to show off his Defensive Player of the Year award.
“My teammates, my coaches, everyone plays a big part of it,” he said.
Gobert also got to show off his 3-point shooting.
Mitchell came up short in the contest, missing on the victory he guaranteed on Twitter. Guard Dante Exum’s 14 points were the highest individual effort. Mitchell, meanwhile, tied center Rudy Gobert with 7 points. Ingles was quick to point Mitchell’s performance once he had the microphone in his hand.
“You all realize Donovan lost that 3-point competition? Donovan didn’t win,” he joked. “So don’t cheer for him until tomorrow night.”
He was the first of his teammates to drain a half-court shot.