After a summer of rumors, Donovan Mitchell was on a golf course when he got the word that he’d finally been traded from the Utah Jazz. And Mitchell, like most, was surprised that his destination was not a return home to New York.
Mitchell was raised in Westchester County and still has roots firmly planted in the area — his father works for the Mets and Donovan spendsmuch of his time off at Citi Field, in the stands rooting for the Mets or on the field taking batting practice. And he was aware that the Knicks and Jazz had gone deep in negotiations on a deal before it fell apart and he was sent instead to Cleveland.
“I thought for sure I was going back home,” Mitchell said in a news conference held by the Cavaliers Wednesday. “Not gonna lie about that. But you know, when I found out where I was headed, who I was playing with, the group, the team, the coaching staff, I couldn't be happier, to be here, to be a part of this organization and be a part of this group.”
The Knicks had been the first suitors and assumed by many around the league to be a fait accompli, not only because of Mitchell’s desire to come home, but the connections he had with the current staff. Knicks president Leon Rose formerly was Mitchell’s agent and on the coaching staff is associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, who developed a close relationship with Mitchell while in Utah.
“Obviously, all summer I wouldn't say much, but once Rudy [Gobert] got traded, you know, I kind of saw the writing on the wall,” Mitchell said. “I think we all did and I think we understood we got a good run. I kind of had a feeling I was gonna get moved.
“Like I said, I thought it was New York, I'm not gonna lie to y'all, but, you know, obviously, who doesn't want to be home next to mom? I hadn't lived at home since I was like an eighth-grader. I’d been at boarding school and that sort of thing, but for me, once I found out I got traded and what we're going into, that trumps everything for me.”
In an interview afterward on ESPN he was asked how close he thought it came to a trade with the Knicks.
“Very close. I won’t say more than that,” Mitchell said. “But I know a little bit more than most. But definitely very close. It didn’t happen and God has a plan for everything . . . I was truly excited when I got traded here, but it was close. It was close to happening.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks signed 6-5 wing DaQuan Jeffries to an Exhibit 10 training camp deal. Jeffries has played briefly for Sacramento and Houston the last three seasons after going undrafted.