In his first game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, it appears Donovan Mitchell has embraced his new home and teammates. The SLAM 235 cover star gave the Toronto Raptors sell-out crowd a drool-worthy show of his athleticism and dynamic offensive bag. The three-time All-Star recorded 31 points and nine assists in 35 minutes, tying the record for most points scored by a debuting Cavaliers player.
The rebuilding Jazz decided to move Mitchell to the Cavs over the summer, but it seems like Spida may have found an ideal fit in Cleveland. Mitchell has been labeled an All-Star piece that can help push Cleveland over the top as a playoff contender. The Lousiville product grew into that while in Utah; as a Cav, Mitchell has a better idea of how to mesh well with his new teammates and seems to be at ease.
“He’s comfortable,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said per ESPN. “I think it’s that easy. This isn’t something he hasn’t done before. He’s carried teams on his back, so he understands the moment, and he’s capable of it. It’s not new, and it’s what we expected from him.”
Mitchell allowed the game to come to him on Wednesday, starting slowly with just four points in the first quarter. However, when his All-Star teammate Darius Garland exited the game with a left eye laceration, Mitchell ramped it up and carried a more significant offense load on his shoulders.
“That’s the big thing playing with a bunch of good guys, trying to find your spots, especially against a team like Toronto,” Mitchell said. “You don’t want to come in full bore; that’s how they want to turn you over. And then [Garland] goes down, so I’m on the ball more, directing traffic.”
“He’s an elite basketball player. There’s not many guys in this league that are better than Donovan or are capable of doing the things he can do. He puts so much pressure on the defense,” Coach Bickerstaff added. “He has the ability to make all the passes, so again that’s, he’s hard to deal with, but he makes defenses have to make tough decisions over and over again.”
Despite a few miscommunications with his new teammate and fellow All-Star Jarrett Allen, Spida had a strong debut. Natural growing pains will come with learning each other’s games, and the vibes remain positive after they opened the season with a 108-105 loss to the Raptors.
“It’s part of the game, part of the growing as teammates. It’s our first game playing together, our first official game playing together. We still have a lot of things to iron out, a lot of things to communicate about off the court after it happens,” said Jarrett Allen.
For the Cavs, Mitchell’s record night signals a high ceiling for the marriage between the All-Star and the rest of the team. As the guard put it, the Cavs “did a good job. But [they] can do an even better job.” Cleveland looks onwards and upwards as they seek to grab their first win of the season against the Chicago Bulls this Saturday.