Would Donovan Mitchell Leave Utah For Hometown Knicks?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Jazz fans have been enamored with second-year star Donovan Mitchell, who is under contract until 2021, but how does the team keep him from leaving for something closer to home once he’s a free agent?
It’s the thing that scares Utah Jazz fans the most.
Though not all draft picks work out, the franchise consistently finds talent. They develop those players, but then lose via free agency to a bigger market.
Think Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward, specifically – picked third and ninth (via Denver) by the Jazz in their respective drafts.
The Utah Jazz take on the New York Knicks Wednesday in the world’s most famous arena. Madison Square Garden just happens to be where Donovan grew up and attended many Knicks games and other events.
“I’ve literally done every possible thing you can do in Madison Square Garden,” he added. “I can’t pick out one game for you, because it kind of all goes together, but I think just being able to be in that arena is just something special.”
So, when he goes back to New York City, the local media ask about what it’s like to be back home, and that worries Jazz fans. Could he be in a Knicks uniform in a few years?
“I remember just going there and being all the way at the top at the rafters, watching the games,” Donovan told reporters in the Big Apple. “Watching (New York) Rangers games, which was a lot of fun as well, watching the Harlem Globetrotters in there, going to concerts.”
There’s a lot to be said for nostalgia and playing where you grew up. His family is still in the area, and his dad works for the New York Mets organization. Plus, if Donovan can be the guy to return the Knicks to glory, he would be a legend for life.
Scott Mitchell from KSL Sports said he sees why Donovan could would be tempted to look at the Knicks.
“I hate to say it, but it’s a reality. He is from there, it is Madison Square Garden. This is such an iconic place, and it is the New York Knicks… it’s everything,” Scott said on a recent broadcast of KSL’s Unrivaled.
The Knicks have struggled for several years, and need to find their next go-to guy.
“Donovan Mitchell is that guy who just says, ‘I am the one guy.’ A lot of people of tried and failed with the Knicks, and no one seems to be able to get it together,” Scott said. “He is that confident in himself and believes in himself, and I just believe he is going back there.”
How Do The Jazz Keep Mitchell From Leaving?
Donovan can’t attempt to test the open market until 2021, and even then he would be a restricted free agent.
The Jazz are the one team that could offer him the most money with a max contract. NBA rules favor players who sign with their current team out of their rookie contract.
So, if money was a big factor, Utah would have the edge.
Winning is also a big reason to stay with the Jazz.
The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the sixth-straight year after this season, and the organization has only made the postseason in the weaker Eastern Conference just three times since the 2004-05 season.
“They are kind of like the Jets and are perennial losing programs, and I almost think that New York people like that better,” Scott said. “They like to be irritated and aggravated, and like to have something to complain about. If the Knicks actually won, it would not work well.”
The Jazz, however, will make the playoffs for the third straight year, and have made it to the second round in each of the past two seasons.
The other half of the KSL’s Unrivaled team, Alex Kirry, wants Donovan to look at both Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward, and what became of them after leaving.
Williams was never able to find the same kind of success, eventually getting hurt. Hayward immediately got hurt, and has had struggles getting back to his peak form.
“It is not just about the injury,” Kirry said of Hayward. “He has not lived up to anything Boston thought they would get from this guy. The reality is that he left who he was back in Utah, and his best playing days may have been (in Salt Lake City).”
Utah Has Chemistry, Winning Mentality
One big thing the Jazz have going for them compared to the Knicks – or any other team for that matter – is the chemistry of this Utah team, and Donovan is a big part of that.
Chemistry cannot be faked.
Just being an elite superstar may not be enough to win titles. Just look at the Houston Rockets. James Harden has scored 30 points at least once against every team in the NBA this year and is averaging 35.8 points per game.
Even with those numbers, Houston is not even the top seed in the Western Conference.
The best example of the 2018-2019 season may be LeBron James. One of the best players to have every played the game, James has been unable to rally a bad Lakers squad – to the point the team is now limiting his minutes to preserve him for next season.
So, who’s to say that a player as good as Donovan could make the Knicks contenders.
“He is developing his game of basketball with a core of people, and (the Jazz) are just a (player like) Kevin Durant away from winning a championship,” Scott said. “They have that chemistry and ability to really build something special here. You may not realize how valuable chemistry is until you don’t have it.”
Scott also brought up a few creative and vanity items that could appeal to Donovan staying in Salt Lake City.
“He could have a car dealership, (and) probably a statue of him somewhere if he stays here, and a street named after him. Those are the things that keep him here,” he said.
It’s Championship Or Bust In New York
What would it take to actually satisfy New York Knicks fans? Likely, only an NBA Champsionship title would make Knicks fans happy, and that is a huge task.
Consider that other big-named players have gone to the Big Apple to resurrect the Knicks organization, but no one has been able to pull off that feat.
Donovan is a budding star, but would he play well enough to keep Knicks fans and media at arm’s length by only having playoff runs, but never hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy?
Kirry makes one final compelling reason for why Donovan should stay in Utah. #TeamIsEverything.
“The Jazz will always be better than the Knicks because almost no one can live up to the expectations in that come with New York and playing there,” Kirry said. “Donovan is going stay, ultimately, but when you see him play once a year in New York and you see the (media) asking the questions, ‘Do you want to play here?’ It makes you sad.”
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