Donovan Mitchell developed into a star after the Utah Jazz were awarded the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in October 2019.
Naturally, expectations emerged that the prolific shooter would be one of the highlight attractions of the festivities in Salt Lake City.
Mitchell will be in the building Sunday night, but he will be representing the Cleveland Cavaliers when the 72nd version of the All-Star Game is held in Utah. Salt Lake City is the host for the first time since 1993.
Utah’s attempt to build a championship team behind Mitchell and Rudy Gobert didn’t pan out, and both players were dealt in separate deals during the last offseason. Mitchell is thriving with the Cavaliers, and his career-best 27.3-point average and popularity with fans led to him being voted in as an All-Star starter for the first time.
Mitchell, 26, said this weekend’s experience is one to cherish.
“You learn to appreciate those things because they saw me grow up,” Mitchell said of the Jazz and their fans. “I was a young kid, just happy to be drafted and then given a role to be one of the leaders on the team early, making the playoffs, having big moments, having struggles, ups, downs and to grow into who I am today, I’m forever grateful, forever thankful.”
Mitchell will learn whether he is on Team LeBron or Team Giannis when the playoff draft is held one hour before tipoff.
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will select their teams in a new twist that was suggested by Kevin Durant.
This is James’ sixth season in the format in which the player who receives the most votes in the respective conferences are named captains. James was the leading vote-getter in the Western Conference and Antetokounmpo was tops in the East.
James, a 19-time All-Star, is 5-0 as a captain. Team Giannis is 0-2, losing in 2019 and 2020. Antetokounmpo is a seven-time All-Star.
Antetokounmpo injured his right wrist in Milwaukee’s final game before the All-Star break on Thursday, and his status for Sunday was uncertain.
Three starters have pulled out of the game due to injuries — Stephen Curry (leg) of the Golden State Warriors, Zion Williamson (hamstring) of the New Orleans Pelicans and Durant (knee), who was recently traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Phoenix Suns.
Curry stole the show in last season’s game in Cleveland when he made a record 16 3-pointers and scored 50 points to lead Team LeBron to a 163-160 win over Team Durant.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies and Lauri Markkanen of the Jazz were named as replacement starters due to the three injuries.
Markkanen, 25, has been a revelation for the Jazz, who acquired him from Cleveland in the Mitchell trade. His scoring average of 24.9 points is a career best by a large margin.
“I had a high level of confidence coming in, especially after the summer I had,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t specifically write down All-Star as one of my goals, but I wanted to take things day by day and stay in the moment. I wanted to do what it takes to get wins and build this thing with this team.
“So, All-Star didn’t really cross my mind.”
The Dallas Mavericks will have two starters, as newly acquired Kyrie Irving joins Luka Doncic. Irving was voted in as a member of the Brooklyn Nets before his recent trade to the Mavericks.
The other starters are two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.
Michael Malone of the Nuggets will coach Team LeBron, while Joe Mazzulla of the Celtics will lead Team Giannis.
The game will be decided by a target score for the fourth straight season. The contest will be over once a team reaches the target score, which will be 24 points more than what the leading team has after three quarters. The 24 was picked to honor the late Kobe Bryant.
In the 1993 All-Star Game, Jazz superstars Karl Malone (28 points, 10 rebounds) and John Stockton (nine points, 15 assists) were named co-MVPs as the West recorded a 135-132 overtime win. Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls scored 30 points for the East.
–Field Level Media