CLEVELAND — Donovan Mitchell disagrees that the now-disintegrated Utah Jazz core “didn’t really believe in each other,” as team CEO Danny Ainge said 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. That he says I don’t agree, after six months on the team. But you know, that’s his decision in the end.”
Ainge, who was hired last December, traded Gobert with the Timberwolves in July in a squad-centric blockbuster and also shared defensive specialist Royce O’Neale in a separate box before moving Mitchell to the Cavs on September 1.
Although the Cavs was one of the teams Mitchell knew had made him an offer, he said he was shocked to be sent to Cleveland instead of his hometown of New York Knicks. Mitchell said that in the few days before the deal was made, he had tricked him into believing he was almost a Knick.
“Very close, I won’t say more than I know a little more than most, but definitely very close,” Mitchell said. “I was really excited when I was traded [to the Cavs]but we were, it was, it was close [to the Knicks].”
After trade talks initially failed, Cavs president Koby Altman reconnected with the Jazz in late August after the Knicks and Jazz were able to reach an agreement. Altman and Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, who have completed five trades in the past five seasons, closed the final deal in less than 48 hours. The Cavs traded three unprotected first round picks, two pick swaps and three young players for Mitchell.
“We have a great relationship with Utah,” Altman said. “We just kept hanging out and hanging out and hanging out. And when they decide to turn around [away from the Knicks]we were there.”
Mitchell arrived at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport about 9 a.m. Wednesday to a group of more than 200 fans, who were waiting in a hangar with Cavs officials. After that, he took part in his first unofficial training session with teammates in the city preparing for the start of the training camp. Mitchell got time on the floor with All-Star teammates Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, as well as Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley.
“We could really build something special,” says Mitchell, who has worked with Garland this summer. “I’m just excited to play with this team, play for this city, play with these guys and just go out there and just fight and win.”
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