Donovan Mitchell Denies Danny Ainge's Claim That Jazz Didn't 'Believe in Each Other'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2022

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 14: Donovan Mitchell speaks during a press conference where he was introduced at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on September 14, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
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Donovan Mitchell disagreed with Danny Ainge's assessment of that Utah Jazz didn't believe in each other last season.

"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."

Utah traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this offseason before sending Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ainge, who took over as the team's CEO last December, provided a brutal assessment of the squad as previously assembled.

"What I saw during the season was a group of players that really didn't believe in each other," Ainge told reporters Monday. "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."

Mitchell and Gobert spent five years together in Utah, helping the squad reach the playoffs in each season. Both players earned All-Star selections in each of the last three years.

After leading the team to the Western Conference semifinals in 2018, the squad was unable to build off the success with just one more playoff series win in the next four years. The team lost in the first round last season to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

"It was clear to me the team did not perform well in the playoffs again," Ainge said.

This was enough for Ainge to blow up the roster, dealing away the two best players while also trading veterans Royce O'Neal and Patrick Beverley.

Mitchell believes the Jazz were good enough to win, but he will instead get a new opportunity with an exciting roster in Cleveland.

"I was truly excited when I got traded [to the Cavs]," Mitchell said Wednesday.

Utah, meanwhile, could have a long rebuild starting with three first-round picks in 2023.