For someone who got drafted that late, people didn’t expect that at all and for him to go out there and do what he’s doing with the opportunity he has in the city and market that he has is incredible. —Donovan Mitchell
DENVER — Christmas was good for Donovan Mitchell.
First, he gifted his younger sister, Jordan, with a jacket, belt, Adidas gear and her first pair of Yeezys.
Then the Utah Jazz arrived in Denver Monday evening ahead of Tuesday’s battle against the Nuggets, but the star rookie was certainly able to catch the Los Angles Lakers nightcap against the Minnesota Timberwolves on TNT.
Mitchell typically stays focused on what he’s doing in Utah, but it was hard to miss Lakers rookie and former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma’s 31-point performance in a 121-104 loss.
Kuzma became the first rookie since LeBron James in 2003 to drop 30 or more in a Christmas game.
“I watched the game last night, and he’s been really impressive,” Mitchell said of Kuzma. “For someone who got drafted that late, people didn’t expect that at all, and for him to go out there and do what he’s doing with the opportunity he has in the city and market that he has is incredible.
“I’m real proud of him,” he added. “I text him all the time.”
With social media so prevalent today, Mitchell said, it’s hard to miss what guys like Kuzma are doing around the league, especially from this year’s strong rookie class. Heading into Tuesday’s game at Denver, Mitchell is second in rookie scoring, averaging 18.0 points behind Kuzma’s 18.1 points per game.
Kuzma has 13 games with 20-plus points, while Mitchell leads all rookies with 14 gams of 20 or more points.
“Social media the way that it is, it’s hard not to see what certain people are doing, especially a guy like him who has been killing it in LA, so you see it all the time in the NBA,” Mitchell said. “Like I tell him all the time, ‘I’m real proud of him’ and he’s just got to keep it up because defenses are going to change, coverages and all that, and we’re both going to learn how to make adjustments.”
As members of the same 2017 NBA draft class, Mitchell and Kuzma developed a friendship throughout the combine and rookie transition experiences. They also connected in Salt Lake City over the summer.
“When he first got here, I was out here for the first football game and we linked up,” Kuzma said. “I kind of showed him the little spots to eat and whatever questions he had.”
Although Kuzmania grows in Los Angeles, don’t expect Mitchell to be wearing one of Kuzma’s exclusive shirts being sold on his website. He’ll leave that to the fans.
“I didn’t know that was a thing,” Mitchell said of Kuzmania. “I don’t think I will wear it because he’s the enemy for this whole season, and once the summer comes I guess we’ll become friends again, but he’s been doing his thing.”
NEW JERSEYS: The Jazz revealed their new Nike City edition uniforms on Monday, inspired by the state of Utah’s natural beauty — including the red rocks, canyon lands, arches, and vistas throughout the southern region. The gradient jerseys fade from bright gold to deep burgundy and will be unveiled on Jan. 30 against the Golden State Warriors at home. The jerseys are a hit with the players.
“I love them. It’s just different,” said Donovan Mitchell. “When you think of Utah, you think of the gold and navy, so when you have colors like that it’s different and the kinda orange brings me back to my middle school days. It’ll be fun, I’m trying to figure out what kind of shoes I’m going to wear, but I like them.”
SUMMER LEAGUE: In November, the Orlando Magic announced that they will no longer host NBA Summer League games. Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Shams Charania reported Tuesday that the Las Vegas summer league dates are set for July 6-17, with an open invitation to all 30 NBA teams. A source confirmed to the Deseret News that the four-team Utah summer league won’t be affected by this change and that the Jazz will participate in Sin City again.