Celtics

Donovan Mitchell refutes Danny Ainge's take on Jazz's struggles

Celtics
Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell is getting a fresh start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he felt the need to defend his former team Wednesday after some eye-opening comments from Danny Ainge.

Ainge, who joined the Jazz in December 2021 as their CEO of basketball operations and alternate governor, said Monday he wasn't a fan of the team's chemistry when he got to Utah.

"What I saw during the season was a group of players that really didn't believe in each other," Ainge said, via ESPN.com. "Like the whole group, I think they liked each other even more than what was reported, but I'm not sure there was a belief."

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Mitchell, who was the subject of reports that he and Jazz center Rudy Gobert didn't have a good relationship, pushed back on Ainge's comments Wednesday.

"I don't think we didn't believe [in each other]," Mitchell told ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "I said at the end of the season, don't trade [Rudy Gobert]. Let's figure this out, let's do. And that didn't happen.

"For him to say that after six months around the team, I disagree. But you know, at the end of the day, that's his decision."

Mitchell spent five seasons in Utah (all alongside Gobert), so it's understandable why he would take issue with Ainge making that proclamation after less than a full season with the team.

 

Still, the results suggest the Jazz needed a shakeup after winning just one playoff series in the last four seasons. That's exactly what Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik did, trading both Mitchell and Gobert for a massive haul of draft picks in moves reminiscent of Ainge's days in the Boston Celtics' front office.

Utah shook up its coaching staff as well, hiring former Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy to take over as head coach after Quin Snyder's departure.

The rebuild in Utah will take some time, but if the Jazz are able to return to prominence, then Ainge will be proven right -- even if his honesty ruffled some feathers.