CLEVELAND — Donovan Mitchell arrived inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse wearing a tan sweater, a pair of eyeglasses and a smile.
It was time for him to be officially introduced as a member of the Cavaliers for the first time. On one side sat president of basketball operations Koby Altman. On the other was coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
Mitchell was in the middle, making it evident he was the man at center stage.
“This is a tremendously exciting and special day,” Altman said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s press conference. “He’s about team and he’s about winning. So we knew he’d fit into our culture.”
Altman was right. Mitchell is a three-time All-Star who never missed the playoffs with the Jazz. So the 6-foot-1 guard knows winning. Meanwhile, the Cavs just missed the playoffs last season, suffering an array of injuries in the season’s second half.
Mitchell, combined with the returnees, gives them even more reason to believe.
“We’re young but we’re hungry and we’re ready. We’re real excited,” Mitchell said. “… I couldn’t be more excited to get going.”
Mitchell is just a piece of the puzzle, of course. As Altman indicated, the Cavs were already pretty promising with the likes of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Garland and Allen were also All-Stars; Mobley a member of the All-Rookie team.
You might think there might not be enough shots to go around in that scenario. But the Cavs look at it as a good so-called issue to have.
“It doesn’t change what we want to do and how we want to play,” Bickerstaff said of the Mitchell acquisition. “He’ll fit right into that. It just goes to another level when you think about the dynamic on offense.”
Bickerstaff paused briefly.
“These guys can present some problems for people,” he added.
Defensively, Mitchell should also fit right in. The Cavs’ defense rose from 25th in the NBA in 2020-21 to fifth last season under Bickerstaff, and Mitchell said he understood why.
“We got two 7-footers down there,” he said, smiling and referring to Allen and Mobley. “I played against them and they got me a couple times last season.”
Mitchell’s arrival has brought more than just hype and sizzle. It has everyone predicting a banner year for the Cavs. That makes sense. They finished 44-38 last year, then added a player of Mitchell’s caliber, surrendering Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, rookie Ochai Agbaji and multiple picks in return.
But Altman was quick to display some perspective.
“We’re still super young,” he said. “We gotta go through some trials and tribulations. … The timeline fits to bring in this caliber of player with this group. So let’s rock. There’s a real runway here for these guys to grow together.”
Mitchell said he agreed with Altman, but that he also thinks with this group, well, who knows how far they can go right away?
“We have to go out there and do the work. I can’t sit here and tell you, yeah, this is a championship team,” he said. “We gotta go out there and do the work.”
Meanwhile, Bickerstaff also likely knows what’s ahead, with the start of training camp just a few weeks away.
“To be able to add talent and character, we were extremely excited,” he said. “You add a player of his caliber, he’s going to make other guys better because he’s going to push them.”
Michell averaged 25.9 points, a career-high 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 67 games last season, shooting 45 percent from the field. He said he actually is just fine with cold weather, so the move from Utah to Cleveland is no big deal. (“I dress better,” he joked about winter wear.)
“It’s not about market size for me,” he said. “It’s about winning basketball. The rest will take care of itself.”
He added that he was touched by the fact Cleveland fans showed up to Burke Lakefront Airport to greet him at about 9 a.m. before the press conference.
“It blew me away,” he said. “It’s make you feel appreciated. The biggest thing is you want to give your heart and soul for people who show up for you.”
— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) September 14, 2022