DALLAS — Utah Jazz star rookie Donovan Mitchell couldn’t have been more excited recently to have a photo taken with a motivational speaker, an author, a former tractor collector, and a truck driver.
Those four guys are also known by their real names: Mark Eaton, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan and Karl Malone.
Mitchell’s fun photo op with the four franchise legends — all of whom have banners raised in the arena's rafters in their honor — happened Tuesday night when Stockton and Malone attended the Jazz's home game against the Atlanta Hawks. Stockton’s son David is on a 10-day contract with Utah, so his dad and godfather took the opportunity to come watch him and his team.
“That was awesome. That was a lot of greatness with those guys in one picture,” Mitchell said, “So it was awesome being a part of that.”
Eaton tweeted the photo and, not surprisingly, it made the circles on social media. Mitchell had previously chatted with Eaton and Sloan, both of whom regularly attend Jazz games, but he’d never met the other two Hall of Famers.
“Obviously coming here you know about the history, about the streets and the statues,” Mitchell said, referring to the tributes to Stockton and Malone. “But to be able to just meet those guys for the first time was pretty special.”
Mitchell also enjoyed his first conversation with Stockton and Malone — and they’ve liked what they’ve seen from him.
“Really good. They said they’re really excited and really honored to watch me and it was great to watch my game,” Mitchell said. “To hear that just in itself is amazing.”
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle had some positive remarks to say about Mitchell during his pregame interview, including somewhat of an endorsement for a prestigious award.
“I haven’t really studied it,” Carlisle said, “but he’s got to be up there for Rookie of the Year. Is he?”
A reporter answered, “Him and (Ben) Simmons.”
Carlisle’s response to that will be popular in Utah but probably won’t go over too well in Philadelphia.
“Simmons,” he said, “isn’t really a rookie.”
Simmons was the No. 1 overall pick out of LSU in 2016 and then sat out what would have been his rookie season last year with a broken foot.
“He’s good. I certainly don’t question that. They’re both great,” Carlisle added. “Mitchell’s a rare rookie that can create for himself and create for teammates and really has a good sort of beyond-his-years knowledge of the game.”
JAE WATCH: Small forward Jae Crowder played the first 181 games of his pro career for Dallas — after being picked 34th overall out of Marquette — and his first NBA coach remains one of his biggest fans.
Carlisle said he formed a tight relationship while working closely with Crowder, now with the Jazz, from 2012-14 before the player was traded to Boston.
“He was a classic case of a guy that people didn’t think was quite good enough, quite skilled enough,” Carlisle said. “He turned out to be one of the most resourceful players that have come into the league the last six or seven years. He did a great job for us. It was a big loss having to trade him. I follow his career with great interest.”