SALT LAKE CITY — One of the main questions surrounding 6-foot-3 Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell since he was selected 13th overall in last June's draft has been whether or not he has the ball skills to be a point guard or if he'd play primarily shooting guard.
With the likely long term injury to Dante Exum (there was still no official update on him at Thursday's practice), that question has become an even more burning one, as Mitchell has otherwise shown he's capable of playing significant minutes in his first season.
While acknowledging that Mitchell does need to continue to improve in areas typically assigned to point guards, head coach Quin Snyder said Thursday that he wants the former Louisville Cardinal to not pay too much mind to which of the two guard positions he is playing.
"I think Donovan has a unique ability to score the basketball, and we want Donovan— the dialogue there that I've had with Donovan—is just be a guard," Snyder said.
Part of being a guard, Snyder said, does mean having ball skills and thinking about how to set his teammates up, but it also includes things such as developing a floater.
"He doesn't have to be playing (point guard) in order to do those things," Snyder said.
Coming off a stellar preseason that concluded with him scoring 26 points against the Lakers, including a key 3-pointer with 1:02 left that stretched Utah’s lead from one to four, Mitchell was asked Thursday if he's aware of the growing hype surrounding him.
“I am,” he acknowledged. “With social media now it’s kind of hard not to see all that, but I just really focus on trying to be as humble as possible and not really let it get to me at all. I just focus on the defensive end. If the shots are falling, it’s an added bonus to my defense.”
LONG BREAK: With their preseason having concluded, the Jazz are in a somewhat unique position of having more than a week from when their preseason ended on Tuesday and when they start their regular season October 18 at home against the Denver Nuggets.
Snyder said Thursday that the focus is on getting healthy and working on some of the areas they lacked in during victories over the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
In addition to Exum, Raul Neto didn’t practice because of a hamstring issue and the neck soreness that caused Rodney Hood to leave the Lakers game early is improving, although he did practice.
“We’ll try to maximize the time we have and use it to our advantage,” Snyder said
SIGNING DAY: The main practice floor at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus was full Thursday of long tables with basketballs on them that team members all signed.
When asked how his hand was feeling because of all the John Hancocks he had completed, Snyder quipped, "carpal tunnel."