SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell is a pretty humble man — except when it comes to his baseball days.
Mitchell had an 85 mile-per-hour fastball as a sophomore in high school — his final season playing baseball (the basketball thing has worked out pretty well). And he’s not afraid to share that fact.
“I don’t brag about a lot,” Mitchell said. “But I’ll brag about that.”
That baseball arm was on display in Utah’s 106-102 win over Minnesota. In the second quarter, Mitchell fired a one-handed pass that looked way more like he was throwing a baseball than a basketball to the corner to Georges Niang. Niang finished off the highlight by drilling the 3-pointer.
“I remember I threw one to Jonas (Jerebko last year during the first round of the playoffs) and it went through his hands,” Mitchell said. “But I’m glad Georges caught it and knocked it down.”
It was the highlight pass of the night, but it wasn’t the only one Mitchell made — far from it, actually. Mitchell had 11 assists — a regular-season career-high — in the win and plenty more hockey assists, too.
“It’s something this time last year, he wasn’t even throwing that pass out to the corner,” Joe Ingles said. “Now, he’s throwing it left hand, right hand, two hands, one hand, whatever it is. We’ll keep putting our hands in that wax thing to soften them up.”
here's a little baseball for your NBA game pic.twitter.com/F6jHheIMY2— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 26, 2019
It’s all part of Mitchell’s evolving game. He was a scorer last year — now he’s turning more and more into a complete player.
“I’m excited about that,” Mitchell said. “Just making reads, trusting my teammates, finding guys. I have been doing the same thing since the beginning of this year, 2019. I feel like I have been making a bunch of better reads. For me, it’s all about continuing to feel the game and where guys are. And having confidence in my passes.”
Where has that confidence come from? Mitchell was forced to be a playmaker when Utah’s point guards all went down with injuries. He didn’t have many other options except to get better — and get better quick.
“When you have three point guards go out, you have to be able to make those plays,” Mitchell said. “That’s where it stared — understand I have no choice but to make those plays. I think it was more like: I gotta do it. It’s one of those things where you can shoot it every time or you can be a player. Watching film, making reads — that’s what I’ve been doing.”
And those reads likely will lead to a few more baseball-like passes — to the chagrin of some of his teammates.
“I didn’t play baseball so it’s tough for me,” Ingles joked.
Maybe that’s why Mitchell didn’t give it all he could on his now famous assist.
“Believe it or not, I actually took something off,” Mitchell said.
Consider that one his change-up.