BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Time and time again, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has stated that he wouldn’t get caught up in being an NBA All-Star 2018 participant.
If it happens, it happens. If not, so what.
Although the league has yet to officially announce the players competing in this year’s slam dunk contest, Mitchell said he hasn’t received an invite.
“I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be in it. It’s alright that I’m not,” Mitchell said during Wednesday’s shootaround in Michigan. “I’m not really complaining about it but it would’ve been cool. It would’ve been a great experience but hopefully just being a part of that weekend but like I always say, that’s not my focal point.
“I know we’re getting closer and closer and these announcements are coming out and all that but we’ve still got five or six games before that break so I’m just going to focus on these next five.”
Mitchell, though, will compete in the Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 16 to showcase first- and second-year players in the league. That was announced Wednesday afternoon.
League sources told Yahoo’s Shams Charania Tuesday that Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Larry Nance Jr. (Los Angeles Lakers) and Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. have accepted invitations for the dunk contest but Smith later went on Twitter to refute the news.
“Sorry guys but I have NOT been officially invited to the slam dunk contest. As stated previously, i would be honored to be apart of it,” Smith tweeted.
Mitchell is confident that Smith will participate, though.
“He’ll do it for sure,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited to see what he has in store. He has the second or third most bounce in the league so it’ll be exciting.”
The league has announced the starters and reserves for the 2018 NBA All-Star game, featuring Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen in the new format. Although no Jazz players made the team, the stage is set for Los Angeles’ Staples Center from Feb. 16-18.
Several stars around the league have lobbied for Mitchell to compete in the dunk contest after taking the league by storm with his thunderous jams. One of them was reigning dunk contest champion Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers, who can’t compete as he rehabs from left ankle surgery.
“Definitely. Just based off the highlights that I’ve seen and just watching his game. I like his game,” Robinson told the Deseret News. “I know a lot of people do and a lot of fans is excited and that’s the most important part. So I think that he definitely is going to be on that list to be in it.”
OUT AGAIN: Jazz guard Rodney Hood is traveling with teammates on this road trip, but was ruled out of Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena with a lower leg contusion. It was the third straight game he has missed, as he also appears to be on the trading block with the deadline just over two weeks away.
He is the Jazz’s second leading scorer, posting a career-best 16.7 points per game. Hood suffered the injury during Friday’s home loss against the New York Knicks.
SPECIAL CASE: The Jazz have been awarded a $2.62 million disabled player exception for injured veteran Thabo Sefolosha, per ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski. With Sefolosha likely out for the season after undergoing right knee surgery, the Jazz are granted permission to bring in a player to replace him for that salary or less through free agency, via trade or off waivers as an exception to the cap.