Utah Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell finds it funny that people are just catching on to his relationship with Dwyane Wade after the Heat legend joined Utah’s ownership group in April.
In recent years, Wade has been a staple at Jazz games, where he’s gone viral on social media for his courtside chats with Mitchell.
Whether Wade is passing on veteran wisdom — after winning three championships of his own in Miami — or the two are chatting about life and sharing a few laughs, they have a bond like no other, Mitchell told The Post.
“It’s funny, I think people are just now starting to see it in person, but this has been going on five years in the making,” the All-Star guard said. “Whether it’s through texts or calls.”
ESPN.com reported that their bond started when Wade invited Mitchell and a few others players for a workout following Mitchell’s rookie season. Mitchell, a Louisville product, was the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Mitchell had established himself as one of the stars of that draft class already, but Wade has helped him reach new levels.
“He’s just always been there for me in that right and also just in life as someone I can lean on and ask questions, like a big brother,” Mitchell said. “Now people are starting to see because he’s sitting courtside and now he’s co-owner of the team, so now he doesn’t need to wait until the after the game to talk or ask a question — like, ‘I’m just going to go over and wait for a free throw, or walk to the corner to talk right then and there.’”
Mitchell recalled leaning on the 13-time All-Star when the Jazz battled against the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs in 2019.
“There were times after games when I had a terrible playoff series two years ago against Houston. I called him and we talked over an hour and a half. That was before Game 4, we almost got swept,” Mitchell remembered of Utah’s 0-3 deficit.
“[Wade] watched all of the film from the series [from Game 1-3] and sent me a massive text of what he saw (both good and bad).”
While their conversations have remained private through the years, Mitchell’s ball-handling technique, his spot-up shooting and court vision have vastly improved since Wade’s mentorship. Their styles of play have drawn comparisons since Mitchell’s rookie year.
The Jazz, propelled by a 31-point performance from Mitchell, won Game 4 to avoid a series sweep. The Rockets took Game 5, and ultimately advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2019 — where they fell to the Warriors in a 4-2 series.
The next year, Mitchell and the Jazz would hit another playoff plateau in the first round when they were bounced out of the post-season by the Nuggets in seven games.
In June, the Jazz made it to the second-round of the 2021 playoffs, where they were slated as favorite after going up 2-0 on the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers. Utah ended up losing four straight to L.A. and was sent home.
“It’s tough to say ‘everything happens for a reason’ in situations while you’re in the moment… especially when you’re up 2-0 and it’s tough when you want to win. But you can sit there and be angry — or sit there and fix it and grow from it,” said Mitchell, who dealt with a nagging ankle injury throughout the series.
That postseason disappointment came after Mitchell led the Jazz to a best-in-the-West 52-20 record last season. The 25-year-old said he learned “so much” through Utah’s recent post-season.
“There was so much adversity, with me being hurt, to the entire team.” he said, admitting the injury was a “blessing in disguise.”
“With me being hurt, I discovered so much about my game as far as, because I’m so used to jumping and being able to jump through people, finish through contact,” Mitchell said. “There were so many things I wasn’t able to do because I was restricted in movement. Me being hurt, because it allowed me to see and discover so many things I had not necessarily had in my game until I got hurt because of those restrictions.”
Now Mitchell — a Westchester native — is setting his sights on winning a championship with the Jazz opening their season Wednesday night at home against the Thunder.
“The goal isn’t to make it to the playoffs into the second round. It’s to be the last team standing. It took Chris Paul 17 years to get to the finals for the first time. It’s not just a given,” Mitchell said of Paul advancing the NBA Finals with the Suns last season.
“You have to be healthy and there’s times when luck strikes, whatever it may be. For us, it’s about how we can control what we can control and continue to push forward. We’re a team that’s hungry. We want to win and we have the pieces and it’s just about us going out there and putting in the work.”
Another figure Mitchell leans on is his mother Nicole, a preschool teacher. The mother-son duo recently teamed up with Clorox to donate funds to teachers so they can have cleaning products and supplies for their classrooms.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for teachers, but until I saw my mom teaching in quarantine making these different projects for her 4-6-year-olds in preschool and having to be able to keep their attention virtually on the screen for hours — that made me realize, teachers are completely underappreciated,” Mitchell said. “Teachers are like superheroes and COVID really showed us that, so to team up with Clorox, that’s donating $1,000,000 to DonorsChoose, is truly special.”
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