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Opinion: Jazz star Donovan Mitchell is special, and he deserves more praise

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 4/23/2019 AJ Neuharth-Keusch

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Donovan Mitchell had just scored 31 points — 19 of them in the fourth quarter — to keep his Utah Jazz alive in their first-round playoff series with the Houston Rockets.

His response? 

"Forget me. Jae Crowder played his ass off. ... He's the heart and soul of that team — on our defense and our aggression — and we followed him. So I want to start off by just giving a shoutout to Jae."

Forget that Mitchell outscored the Rockets by himself in the final period. And forget that Mitchell is, in fact, the heart and soul of the Jazz. He took it upon himself to make sure one of his teammates was recognized, and for a 22-year-old who was thrust into an alpha-dog role after being drafted 13th overall two summers ago, that's special. 

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His words, spoken to TNT's Allie LaForce after the win, were just the latest example. Mitchell is a bona fide star, and his rise, though muted due to the market he plays in, is a storyline every sports fan can get behind. 

But as extraordinary as Mitchell's play is (last year's Rookie of the Year runner-up already ranks third in franchise history in playoff points per game at 24.2), his maturity and how he handles himself as a leader may be his most impressive quality.

Kyle Korver said it best following Utah's Game 3 loss — a game in which Mitchell shot just 9-for-27 and missed a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. 

Kyle Korver in a yellow shirt: Jazz guard Kyle Korver consoles guard Donovan Mitchell following a Game 3 loss to Houston. © Russell Isabella, USA TODAY Sports Jazz guard Kyle Korver consoles guard Donovan Mitchell following a Game 3 loss to Houston.

"I have never been around a young player like Donovan Mitchell," the 38-year-old told reporters. "I have never seen someone so young take ownership of a team, take ownership of his play, do it with charisma, do it with class. I've never seen that in my 16 years in the NBA.

"He missed a tough shot tonight. That's just gonna be part of his story. If you've played any meaningful basketball in the NBA, you have a shot like that. If you don't, that means you haven't played in meaningful games, or you haven't been trusted by your coaches or teammates to take that shot. I don't care who it is in history. Everyone has a shot they want back. And this is gonna just be part of his story at the end of the day."

Korver, who has played on five teams in his career and been around his fair share of young stars, had already finished talking to reporters before he made these comments, but he called them back so he could deliver his praise. 

"I'm super proud of him," Korver continued. "He heard that he hadn't played as well as he wanted to the first couple of games, and he put the whole thing on his back, and he really tried tonight. For a young guy, 21-years-old or whatever he is, that's really special. He is on a great path in this NBA."

More than likely, Utah's season is going to come to an end within the next week. The Jazz are down 3-1 to a Houston team that's just better than they are, and a first-round exit after a trip to the Western Conference semifinals in each of the past two seasons will be viewed as a disappointment, and rightfully so. 

But as long as Mitchell continues on this path, the future of the franchise is in great shape, and the national spotlight will only shine brighter and brighter on one of the game's biggest stars. 

Follow USA TODAY Sports' AJ Neuharth-Keusch on Twitter @tweetAJNK

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Jazz star Donovan Mitchell is special, and he deserves more praise



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