Donovan Mitchell was forced to miss perhaps the most pivotal point of his rookie season, forced to go to the locker room after attempting a left-to-right crossover on MVP frontrunner James Harden of the Houston Rockets and unable to return for the rest of the game.
Mitchell was forced to watch from the sidelines as his team took a 10-point loss, eliminating him and his teammates from the playoffs.
Yet the rookie shooting guard remained encouraged by the long strides his team had taken, going from a 10th seed in the West early in the season to making quick work of the Oklahoma City Thunder and testing the top-seeded Rockets.
“This is just the beginning,” Mitchell told ESPN after a post-game chat with his mentor Paul. “We’ve got a lot more in us. We’ll be back here. We’ve got a lot of guys who are willing to work, so I’m excited. I’m really excited.”
His teammate, Rudy Gobert, was equally optimistic, hopeful that this team will get even stronger over time.
“We went through a lot of ups and downs this year, this summer also, but I never doubted,” Gobert said after a Game 5 loss. “I still don’t doubt that we’re going to get where we want to get. It’s crazy that we’re a team that people didn’t think was going to make the playoffs, and we were competing for a Western Conference Finals spot.”
“There’s no limit to what we can do.”
The Jazz were without Ricky Rubio for the entire series, which forced them into a change of plan, one which they struggled to put in play against a potent offensive team. Adding the right personnel in the offseason could prove vital if Mitchell and Gobert are to take the next step up in competition.