Running around a gym screaming: Cavaliers say Donovan Mitchell takes them to next level

CLEVELAND — Many Cavaliers, with the notable exception of a napping Jarrett Allen, were working out when along came a “Spida.”

Point guard Darius Garland was in a Nashville gym on Sept. 1 when he learned of the stunning trade that brought three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cavs. Garland said he received a phone call from Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman just before the news broke.

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“I'm just running around the gym, I'm screaming,” Garland recalled Monday. “He was like, ‘You can't tell anyone yet because it's coming.’

“So I had to calm down. I had to just go get my towel, wipe my face off and just trying to act somewhat normal. But deep down inside I was super happy.”

Cavaliers' Caris LeVert on Mitchell: 'I love playing with great players, so it’s going to be fun'

Guard Caris LeVert had just finished his training session when someone sent him the first tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It didn’t have any names in it, so LeVert feared he was part of the deal that sent guards Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji, forward Lauri Markkanen and three unprotected first-round picks to the Utah Jazz, along with two pick swaps.

“When I found out I was still here I was super excited,” LeVert said as the Cavs kicked off the start of training camp with Media Day at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. “I’ve known Donovan for a couple years now and I love his game. He’s one of the best players in the league and he’s so young, too.

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“I love playing with great players, so it’s going to be fun.”

USA Today Sports photographer Ken Blaze photographs new Cleveland Cavaliers player Donovan Mitchell during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
USA Today Sports photographer Ken Blaze photographs new Cleveland Cavaliers player Donovan Mitchell during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love looking forward to 2022 NBA season with Donovan Mitchell

The acquisition of Mitchell, 26, elicited a similar reaction from second-year center/forward Evan Mobley. The runner-up for NBA Rookie of the Year in 2022, Mobley was in Los Angeles.

“Some person in the gym just randomly shouted out that we got Donovan Mitchell,” Mobley said. “I was like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ Then started texting people and stuff and saw who got traded and all that. I was excited when it happened. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Asked if he really said, “Shoot,” Mobley responded, “Shoot, I don’t even know what I said.”

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Allen said he woke up to a text that merely read, “Donovan Mitchell.” He was too groggy to call anyone at first, so he checked Twitter before he got his agent on the phone.

“I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ I figured something was going to happen, I didn’t know it was going to be us,” Allen said. “I wasn’t surprised that it was us, Koby’s always making moves that surprise literally everybody. I was excited.”

Allen was part of another huge Altman deal, that in January, 2021 when the then-general manager inserted the Cavs into the four-team James Harden trade that brought in center Allen from the Brooklyn Nets.

Allen knows what the addition of Mitchell, considered a top 20 player in the league, can do for a Cavs team that finished 44-38, the second-biggest jump in win total in franchise history, and were eliminated with losses to the Nets and Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament. Mitchell and the Jazz reached the playoffs all five years he was in Utah.

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“I feel like we’re capable of — we haven’t done it — of actually making the playoffs this year,” Allen said. “Obviously Donovan’s been there many times. … We have that drive, that energy. We left a lot on the table last year and we still have a lot of energy left in us to bring it further.”

Five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love looks at Allen and Garland, first-time All-Stars in 2021-22, along with rising star Mobley and sees newfound respect coming from Cavs opponents.

“I think we have the makings of a team that could have four All-Stars, right?” Love said. “I think people know what we’re capable of now. If we put it together, we aren’t a team that’s really going to surprise anybody anymore.”

Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarett Allen is interviewed by Kids Club Reporters Dean Hemphill, left, and Ah'mir Rahkeera during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarett Allen is interviewed by Kids Club Reporters Dean Hemphill, left, and Ah'mir Rahkeera during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

LeVert, coach J. B. Bickerstaff dreaming big with addition of Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell did not speak at Media Day after being introduced at the FieldHouse on Sept. 14. But Altman, coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his new teammates, had plenty to say about him.

“From the basketball standpoint, it’s obvious what he brings to the table,” Bickerstaff said. “Going through some of the situations we went through last year and some of the bigger games, the play-in series, understanding a need of guys who can beat their man and create their own and Donovan is elite at that.”

Bickerstaff pointed out that Mitchell averaged 28.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 39 career playoff games, his scoring well above his 23.9 average in the regular season.

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“You think about how many players’ numbers increase in the playoffs the way Donovan’s do and increase to 25 points a game, it’s not like it’s 10 to 11,” Bickerstaff said. “For him to take that step in big moments, we’re going to face those moments and be able to rely on him.”

Altman stuck to his comments from Mitchell’s introduction, saying, “This year is not contention or bust at all. We’re still a very young group and we’re gaining experience. We played 84 games last year. We most certainly want to play more than 84 this year, but this is a runway I think that we have here.”

LeVert doesn’t know what the Cavs are capable of with Mitchell, but he is dreaming big.

“I think that’s the beauty of it,” LeVert said. “Just looking at us on paper, seeing how we compete, knowing the guys on the team, you can only dream about what this group can accomplish, especially adding someone like Donovan, who’s been a star since he entered the league. I think we’re all super-excited to see what we can accomplish.”

Cleveland Cavaliers Jarett Allen, Evan Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Kevin Love pose for a photo during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Cleveland Cavaliers Jarett Allen, Evan Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Kevin Love pose for a photo during media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Ricky Rubio on Mitchell: 'He’s that type of player all teams need to win a championship'

Backup point guard Ricky Rubio knows exactly what the Cavs are getting after playing with Mitchell from 2017-19. Rubio suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 28 and was traded to the Indiana Pacers in the LeVert deal in February, but the Cavs and Rubio agreed to a three-year contract to bring him back on July 1.

“Humble guy. Hard worker. When we were talking with Koby when he signed me and he said he had the option to really go after him, I said, ‘Go for it!’ because at the end of the day, I think it takes us to the next level,” Rubio said of Mitchell. “He’s that type of player all teams need to win a championship.

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“You can give him the ball and he can give you a bucket at any time. He knows how to play, he knows how to do it the right way and I think he learned a lot in Utah with [former coach] Quin Snyder how to play the right basketball. I think it fits perfect on this team, not just on the court but off the court as well. Think you need both to really go far.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Surprised Cavs excited over Donovan Mitchell trade