Donovan Mitchell Jr. came home Saturday night.
Just not in the way Knicks fans hope.
Mitchell threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Brooklyn Cyclones’ game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at Maimonides Park in Coney Island.
Sporting a Cyclones jersey with his No. 45 on the back, Mitchell received a nice ovation from the sparse crowd before throwing a strike.
The homecoming of sorts occurred under the backdrop of an expected trade. The Athletic reported this past week that Utah CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge asked the Knicks for a package of six first-round picks, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes, which was rejected.
Ainge’s demand makes sense on multiple fronts.
First, after a six-game first-round series loss to Dallas, Ainge has begun a teardown of the Jazz. He already has acquired a 2023 first-round pick from the Nets for Royce O’Neale and a massive package of four first-round picks, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley from Minnesota for Rudy Gobert.
Second, the Knicks have the kind of capital that rebuilding teams desire. Under the Leon Rose regime, stockpiling picks is the Knicks’ modus operandi. They own 11 first-round picks beginning in 2023 and running through 2029.
The question becomes how much Rose is willing to part with to acquire the Mitchell, 25, who is coming off a 2021-22 campaign in which he averaged 25.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 67 games. He shot 44.8% from the field, 35.3% from three-point range and 85.3% from the free-throw line.
Over the course of his 345-game career — all with the Jazz — the 6-1 guard has averaged 23.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists, making 44.1% of his shots from the field, 36.1% from three-point range and 83.3% of his free throws. In 10 career games against the Knicks, the three-time All-Star averaged 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists, shooting 43.9% from the field, 33.7% from three-point range and 88.3% from the foul line.
All of which is why the Elmsford, New York, product found himself signing photos, shoes, baseballs, basketballs, cards and the commemorative bobbleheads the team produced for fans alongside the Cyclones’ dugout.
Mitchell also posed for photos with members of the Cyclones and Grasshoppers (the Pirates’ High-A affiliate), played catch with young fans and took nine rounds of batting practice. He hit four home runs, although he said he “was going for six.”
Mitchell did not take any basketball-related questions.