That’s all it is, just having fun, just enjoying it. I’m blessed to be in this spot, to even be in this consideration. Why not have fun with it as well? —Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY—The Donovan Mitchell-Ben Simmons Rookie of the Year debate has left the basketball court.
A day after Simmons indicated in an ESPN story that he should be the unquestioned winner of the award and Mitchell quickly responded by sharing a GIF on Twitter expressing disbelief, the Utah Jazz rookie showed up to Vivint Arena before the Jazz’s game Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors wearing an Adidas sweatshirt with the dictionary definition of “rookie” printed on it.
“An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team,” the sweatshirt said, a clear message concerning where Mitchell stands on the question of whether or not Simmons should be eligible for the award after he was drafted in 2016 but missed the entire 2016-2017 campaign because of a broken foot.
In his walkoff TV interview after he helped his Philadelphia 76ers beat the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night, Simmons jumped on the use of the word “playing” on Mitchell’s sweatshirt, saying, “He’s implying that I am a rookie because it’s my first season—playing.”
Later at his locker, Simmons told reporters, “I’m not going to wear a sweatshirt tomorrow, though.”
Following Utah’s 119-79 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors, Mitchell said he was initially unsure about wearing the sweatshirt when Adidas first approached him about it, “but yesterday happened, so I was like, ‘Cool.’”
“We just wanted to have fun with it,” he said. “That’s all it is, just having fun, just enjoying it. I’m blessed to be in this spot, to even be in this consideration. Why not have fun with it as well?”
Still, Mitchell noted that he’s more interested in the candidacies Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert have for Coach of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively.
“I’m not really worried about this award,” he said. “I’d rather get two than one selfish awards. It’s great to be in the conversation like that, but at the same time, I’m cool with where we’re at as a team.”
With one game remaining, Mitchell is averaging 20.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per contest, while Simmons has marks of 16 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per night.
Both the Jazz and the 76ers can earn the 3 seeds in their respective conferences with wins in their season finales Wednesday night. Utah plays on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers, while Philadelphia will be at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.