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Donovan Mitchell says Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson were mentors

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Donovan Mitchell learned about the business side of the NBA directly and quickly.

He was selected No. 13 in last June’s NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets and went on stage to shake Adam Silver’s hand wearing a dark-blue Denver Nuggets hat with his grey suit. But within a minute or so of stepping off that stage, he was a member of the Utah Jazz, who traded up to get him. He had been a piece in a trade before he even got his tie loosened on that draft night suit.

In Utah, Mitchell has evolved over the course of the season into a ball-handling, scoring force and a serious Rookie of the Year candidate. He, along with Rudy Gobert, are seen now as the young core that Utah is going to build around for a decade or more. Mitchell is becoming an NBA star.

So much so that he will be showcased All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles where he is part of Team USA in Friday night’s Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge — Mitchell has partnered with Mountain Dew Kickstart as a sponsor, he will be working with them at events around Los Angeles all through that weekend with the public — and he will be on a bigger stage yet in the Dunk Contest Saturday night.

Mitchell is stepping into the spotlight.

All that doesn’t make the business side of the NBA any easier.

Tuesday the Jazz shipped out Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Kings. Mitchell said he leaned on Hood this season as a mentor, helping him adjust to the NBA Game.

“Rodney Hood’s been instrumental in kind of mentoring me throughout this entire season,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Thursday afternoon, hours after the trade was announced. “We play the same position, obviously, and he’s been really, really helpful. It’s his career, and he has he has a really big, big role coming up when he gets to Cleveland, and I’m really excited for him.”

Still, it’s hard to adjust to the game you love and played for fun growing up now being a cold, hard business.

“I’m getting used to the business side of the NBA real fast,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I learned it within my first three minutes in the league being traded from Denver (to Utah), it’s just another part of it.”

Mitchell said he leaned on Hood to help teach him the nuances of the NBA game — coming off picks with the ball, using screens, etc. — but it was the veteran Johnson who helped him understand the business side of the sport better.

“I’ve talked to guys like Joe Johnson. There’s certain times when, I guess, you assume or you kind of know it’s about to happen, so I asked him questions, like ‘what happens in this situation?’ or ‘what happens in that situation?’ and they’re great for answering the questions for me so that way as a young guy coming into the league I know what’s going on or why teams are doing certain things,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s pretty cool I now have the insight because at heart I’m still a fan of basketball and a fan of the NBA so being able to understand why certain trades are happening, understanding what a buyout is — to be honest with you I didn’t really understand a buyout so Joe Johnson explained it to me. It’s pretty cool to have an understanding of these things.”

Tuesday’s trade brings the Jazz Jae Crowder, who had looked lost and dispirited in Cleveland this season, but should be put in better positions to succeed by Quin Snyder. Crowder can defend, hit threes, and blend right in with what Utah likes to do on both ends of the court.

Whoever is in or out, the goal for the Jazz remains the same — make the playoffs. Utah has won six in a row and is back in the postseason mix.

“This doesn’t change much at all,” Mitchell said of the team’s goals. “We’ve been playing well. You know Ricky (Rubio) has been leading the charge, after some time off he’s been great, and we’re just following his lead. Having Rudy (Gobert) back has definitely helped.

“We’re about two-and-a-half or three games out (note: 2.5 games of the eight seed as of today) and we’re making that playoff push. You know, this is around the time when certain teams get tired and kind of get relaxed and we’re using our energy to keep feeding into that and keep going.”

This rookie is learning fast — the NBA is a business and you need to focus past that on the game.

Report: Mike Woodson close to joining Suns coaching staff

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The Phoenix Suns are bolstering their coaching staff. After spending most the 2017-18 season under interim head coach Jay Triano, Phoenix finally settled on Igor Kokoskov as their top man.

Now, it appears they’re adding some veteran talent to the front row.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Suns are in talks to bring former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson in as Kokoskov’s right hand man. Meanwhile, ArizonaSports.com is reporting that the decision has already been made to hire Woodson.

Via Twitter:

Woodson, 60, was last on the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018. He was head coach of the Knicks from 2012-2014, and helmed the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.

This is a smart hire for the Suns, who have needed some legitimacy after firing Earl Watson just three games into the season this year. Phoenix has been in a bit of a freefall since letting Jeff Hornacek go in 2015. Indeed, despite for one outlying 48-win season in 2013-14, Phoenix hasn’t been a very good team in this decade.

With a solidified coaching staff and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s hope yet for the Suns. Now, the question is who they take with that pick. Luka Doncic? Deandre Ayton? The draft continues to intrigue.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 Tuesday vs. Rockets

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“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

That’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Andre Iguodala

The Warriors are going to have to be without that tone Tuesday night, Iguodala will miss the game with a knee contusion.

This is a blow to the Warriors, who have started small with Iguodala through the first three games of this series. The Warriors have been 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court through the first three games of this series.

Expect Kevon Looney or Nick Young to start, with the rest of the minutes divided up between Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, and David West.

Whatever Kerr and the Warriors go with, expect James Harden and the Rockets to attack it.

 

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.