Very few rookies enter the NBA with a nickname that is both desired and one that immediately sticks, but thus far, Davion "Off Night" Mitchell has lived up to the billing.
The No. 9 overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft was regarded as the best perimeter defender entering the league, and throughout Summer League and preseason, that particular skill set was frequently on display. Mitchell won't play his first NBA game until the Sacramento Kings' season opener on Wednesday, but it's a safe bet that moniker will follow him for the duration of his career.
Ironically, one of Mitchell's NBA teammates is partly responsible for the nickname he picked up in college. Before Tyrese Haliburton was going up against Mitchell in practice with Sacramento, they went head-to-head in the Big 12.
In Haliburton's final collegiate season at Iowa State, he faced Mitchell and the Baylor Bears multiple times. It didn't go so well for Haliburton.
"Actually, that's kind of where the name came from, 'Off Night,' when he had an off-night," Mitchell told NBC Sports California's Kyle Draper at Kings Media Day last month.
"Yeah, two games on the struggle bus, for sure," Haliburton conceded with a chuckle. "He had a lot to do with that."
"We knew he was really good," Mitchell explained, "so it was easy just to sink on Tyrese because his team wasn't as good as he was. His team was pretty good, but they didn't know how to play with each other. And we knew that if we stopped him -- he was like the playmaker, he was the scorer, he did everything -- so we knew if we stopped him, we were going to win the game."
Baylor prevailed in both contests, but Haliburton believes his experiences against "Off Night" in college helped get him to where he is today.
"Being a top player in the country playing against a top defender in the country was a lot of fun for me and something that I really enjoyed, although we lost both those games," Haliburton said. "Wasn't very successful, but that's allowed me to grow, and I think I learned a lot from that."
Mitchell and Haliburton can credit one another for sharpening each other's iron in college. But surely they're both glad to be on the same side in the pros.