The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that every player has that night. —Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — In the midst of a heated Rookie of the Year debate, Donovan Mitchell refused to take a jab at his rival Ben Simmons after a rough performance.
Simmons struggled — scoring just one point — in the Game 2 loss of the Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics series as his squad fell behind 2-0.
As the Jazz were preparing for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series against the Houston Rockets, Mitchell said he watched part of the game, but mainly focused on fellow Louisville product Terry Rozier of the Celtics.
“To be able to do what he's doing, he's one of those guys that's overlooked, that people don't know much about,” Mitchell said of Rozier. “Y'all should get to know Terry. He's impressive, an impressive guy. What he's doing is crazy."
The Celtics-76ers series will shift to Philly on Saturday and Mitchell fully expects Simmons respond strongly.
The two have gone back-and-forth through the media with quotes, clothing and billboards but Mitchell respects his talent as a 6-foot-10 point guard. Simmons is averaging 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 4.6 turnovers through the first seven games of the postseason.
“The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that every player has that night,” Mitchell said. “You look at LeBron (James) against the Mavs in the Finals, he had eight points.
“There was one year I was watching (James) Harden play against the Warriors and he had about 10 turnovers in a playoff game so it happens to everybody, and it just so happens that it happened to him, and I expect him to respond back because he’s a good player,” he added. “Good players respond back, and it’s all about the response and it’s a testament to his character. It happens. You can’t play great every night. It’s not as easy as some people make it look.”
LAST HURRAH: Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov accepted the head coaching position for the Phoenix Suns this week to make history as the league’s first European-born head coach. Kokoskov was spotted during Friday’s shootaround working with injured Jazzman Ricky Rubio and released a formal statement about leaving the franchise. He will report to Phoenix after concluding his 2017-18 duties in Salt Lake City.
“I am thrilled to be the next coach of the Phoenix Suns and greatly appreciate the opportunity that Robert Sarver and Ryan McDonough have given me,” Kokoskov wrote. “I am certainly proud to be the first head coach in the NBA raised outside North America and just as excited to return to the Suns organization and Phoenix, my family’s second home for the past 10 years.
“It’s a place where I was a part of tremendously talented and successful teams and I look forward to working toward a championship,” he continued. “My time here in Utah has been invaluable and we are in the middle of an important playoff run with a very special group of players and coaches who deserve my full attention. At the end of the season, I look forward to turning focus to my next challenge, building a strong program in Phoenix and creating the success the fans deserve.”