SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Donovan Mitchell found himself at the center of a national controversy after this 36 point outing against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night. During halftime and after the nationally televised game, Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley ripped the guard for not doing more to elevate the Utah Jazz.
At halftime of the broadcast, Shaq insisted Mitchell would be better served as the second or third option on a championship level team. Barkley and co-host Kenny Smith counted the ways Mitchell can’t take over a game, despite a 21 point, three rebound, two assist first half.
During Mitchell’s walk-off interview with the TNT crew, Shaq offered Mitchell a critique that felt more like an indictment on the guard’s play than a question about the game leading to a cringeworthy standoff between the Hall of Famer and the All-Star.
“I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose. I wanted you to hear it,” O’Neal told Mitchell. “What do you have to say about that?”
“Aight,” the Jazzman responded.
“That’s it?” O’Neal asked.
“That’s it,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year. You know, I’m just gonna get better and do what I do.”
Mitchell Further Elaborates On Shaq In Locker Room
Mitchell was pressed on the acquisition from the TNT crew, and his awkward interview with Shaq after the game.
Fittingly, Mitchell handled the question with the grace of a player more experienced than he is.
“I hate to take a win like this and make it about what they said about me,” Mitchell said. “Look at how we played, look at how we guarded. I’m happy.”
Donovan Mitchell on the comments from Shaq and Barklet on @NBAonTNT.
“I hate to take a win like this and make it about what they said about me. Look at how we played, look at how we guarded. I’m happy.”
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) January 22, 2021
Mitchell pointed to the team’s early-season improvement, learning how to endure runs like the one made by the Pelicans in the first half that saw the Jazz fall behind 16 points before clawing back for the 129-118 victory.
“Remember the start of the year we came out flat in certain games,” Mitchell remembered. “If teams hit us first we didn’t have a push back.”
The Jazz turned their 16 point deficit into a 17 point advantage midway through the third quarter and coasted to a double-digit victory, their seventh straight of the young season.
“I’m here to play basketball and to be the best teammate and best player that I can be,” Mitchell said. “If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. I’m not trying to make this about me, this is team basketball.”
National Spotlight Turns to Mitchell
After the awkward interaction on TNT, Mitchell became the center of a national controversy. The interview drew the attention of national outlets, media members, and celebrities alike, with most coming to Mitchell’s defense.
ESPN writer Bomani Jones responded to the interview to his 550,000 Twitter followers by offering Mitchell his support.
“The last thing shaq expected was for Mitchell to not give on [sic] single solitary [thought] about his opinion,” Jones tweeted. “Good for donovan.”
CBS Sports Radio host Brandon Tierney was also quick to point out the flaws in Shaq’s approach.
“Love Shaq and old-school motivational tactics, but this misses the mark badly,” Tierney tweeted. “Mitchell deserves much better, publicly. Dude dropped 57, 51 and 44 in playoffs last year. 52% on 3’s. Pushed superior team to max. Had 36 last night, takes time to chat and gets hit w/this? Weak.”
Even popular rapper Wale took issues with Shaq’s line of questions for Mitchell. With nearly 6.5 million followers on Twitter, the songwriter offered his thoughts on the exchange.
Donovan Mitchell don’t owe nobody the response THEY want … tf
— Wale (@Wale) January 22, 2021
“Donovan Mitchell don’t owe nobody the response THEY want,” Wale tweeted.
For his part, Mitchell couldn’t be playing much better than he is during the Jazz win streak. The guard is averaging 27.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting an impressive 51 percent from the floor, 52 percent from three, and 91 percent from the free-throw line.
Original posted at kslsports.com