Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell debuts for his new team, and it simply felt ‘a little different’

PHILADELPHIA — Less than five weeks since Donovan Mitchell was taken by a trade by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a stunning blockbuster to cap a frenetic offseason in the NBA, Donovan Mitchell made his debut for the Cavaliers in the preseason opener in Cleveland on Wednesday .

And after scoring 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, with five assists in 19 minutes in a 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center came to the goal. Mitchell admitted the idea of ​​donning a different jersey than the Utah Jazz he wore for the first five years of his career will take some getting used to.

“One hundred percent,” Mitchell said with a smile when asked if it felt weird wearing a different jersey for the first time. “It just didn’t feel real … it hasn’t hit me yet.”

Mitchell said he spent Monday looking out the window of the Four Seasons high above downtown Philadelphia, and only then did he really realize it was his first time officially playing for another team.

“Today I just sat there and had one of those moments where you sit there and look out and you see everything and it’s like, ‘Wow. It’s really here,'” he said.

“Then when you come onto the court, basketball is basketball. But all the little things, it’s definitely weird. A little different. But I’m excited. It’s going the way I imagined it would, in a good way.”

Mitchell’s arrival in Cleveland to bolster a burgeoning young core with All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and last season’s second-place finish to Evan Mobley for Rookie of the Year gives the Cavaliers hope that this season will see an upward trend in the franchise -Tag Rabbit hasn’t been seen in decades when LeBron James was out of town.

Last time Cleveland made the playoffs without James? The 1997/98 season. Last time the Cavaliers won a playoff series without him? Thirty seasons ago, in the 1992-93 season, when Cleveland was defeated in four games by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

But to do those things — especially in what is arguably the deepest version of the Eastern Conference the NBA has seen in a generation or more — Cleveland must first get its two ball-dominating guards, Mitchell and Garland, on the same side.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s game, Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff laid out the criteria showing the process is working and said the focus is on avoiding playing “your turn, it’s my turn” basketball.

After that, he, Garland and Mitchell were all pleased with how things were coming together in their first tryout against another team.

“I found it pretty seamless,” Bickerstaff said. “The way they played together, the way the ball moved, everyone got involved… as long as we’re playing in the same style that we want to play, where it’s not just based on one player, it’s on the team, I think it will work well for us.”

And for the most part, Wednesday night did. Mitchell’s first strike as a Cavalier – a 3-pointer from the right wing – came from an assist from Garland, who finished with 12 points and four assists in 4-for-7 shooting in 15 minutes and was sandwiched between Mitchell’s take on Kevin Love himself for a pair of triples.

“I think we did a lot of things well,” Mitchell said. “You go up the floor and it’s like, ‘He’s got it.’ But it’s not like, ‘He isolated it.’ It’s like he’s got it, makes a game, creates… I said in the dressing room we didn’t call many games in the first half, that speaks to our ball movement.

After relying almost entirely on Garland last season to cause offense for both himself and his teammates, Cleveland was thrilled with his opening glimpse of life alongside Mitchell — even within the meaningless confines of the first half of Cleveland’s first preseason game in large part because it will take the pressure off him to do everything offensively.

“I think it was the distance for me,” Garland said when asked what struck him most about playing alongside Mitchell. “Just coming from Pick and Rolls, there are so many threats on the opposite side, and it’s just a lot easier… You can just pick your poison. You have to live with it.

“It was just fun out there, to be honest.”

As Cleveland waits to get forward Evan Mobley back on the field after suffering a sprained ankle over the weekend, the Cavaliers have one more decision to make before opening night: who will join Garland, Mitchell, Mobley and at the small forward start? everyone

There are a few possible options, including Caris LeVert, who started Wednesday’s game, Dean Wade, who hit 3 triples off the bench, and Isaac Okoro, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. Bickerstaff said his final decision on who got there will depend on how they can contribute to unlocking the best attributes of the four stars around them.

“It’s really going to be about the fit and that’s going to be who makes these four guys better,” he said. “Who is helping them on the offensive end of the floor? Who is helping them on the defensive end of the floor? Who can protect guys defensively in certain situations? How does it help our matchups? Offensively, how does it help us distribute the floor? Those are all things we take into account.” Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell debuts for his new team, and it simply felt ‘a little different’

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