SALT LAKE CITY — Naz Mitrou-Long didn’t hit the court for a single minute of Utah’s 109-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday as a DNP-coach’s decision.
However, once guys hit the locker room, the Jazz two-way player was certainly noticeable among teammates.
After Donovan Mitchell’s 36-point performance, he took time to compliment Mitrou-Long on his postgame ensemble, while joking about his own in the process.
“Naz, this is like a $5,000 outfit right here,” Mitchell said, laughing.
“That’s fire,” said Mitrou-Long, smiling. “That is actually fire.”
The second-year guard out of Iowa State has appeared in six Jazz games this season to average 0.8 points and 0.5 assists in 4.5 minutes, but what the stats don’t show is his value to the Jazz. Mitchell and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert both look to Mitrou-Long and Tyler Cavanaugh, Utah’s other two-way player, to provide that energy for the squad when they’re not with the Salt Lake City Stars of the G League.
“It gives us a boost. Any little thing that gives us confidence, that gives energy,” Gobert said. “Good energy from the bench is I think huge for a good team. Having guys that are positive and give you that little touch of fun on the bench makes everything easier for us.”
Mitrou-Long’s sideline antics have drawn praise across Jazz Nation via social media where he played an air guitar with three fingers after a triple from Kyle Korver on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 16.
However, Mitchell’s favorite was where he put three fingers in a holster after a Jae Crowder 3-pointer during the same game. The Jazz-based SLC Dunk website recently created a caricature Mitrou-Long T-shirt of him playing the air guitar, but had to remove it from the site for licensing purposes.
“Naz is one of the best teammates I’ve had, especially in the NBA,” Mitchell said. “Him and Tyler, they get it. It was Georges (Niang) last year. They just get it.
“We have guys that just get it,” he added. “They’re so unselfish, they’re out there having fun and we all enjoy each other’s success. That’s what’s so great about this team.”
Portland ended Utah’s six-game winning streak with the five-point victory at Vivint Arena on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the Jazz (26-22) will be back in action to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.
Mitrou-Long shares a connection with Nuggets floor general Monte Morris as college teammates for Iowa State plus shares Canadian roots with Denver’s starting point guard Jamal Murray.
Denver (31-14) has lost seven straight road games in Utah as it enters Vivint Arena with the second-best record in the Western Conference. For what it’s worth, though, Jazz players know they can count on at least one guy on the sidelines to be in tune with the action whether he plays five minutes, receives a DNP-coach’s decision or finishes the game. And he has no problem with it.1 comment on this story
“Whatever this organization needs from me is what I’m going to provide and that’s just being a sponge and soaking up information and knowledge from the vets and the guys that have been here before and even guys like Donovan and Royce (O’Neale) who are playing big minutes and are big friends of mine,” said Mitrou-Long. “What I’m getting, just from being around the organization, is something you can’t put a price on, and that’s just knowledge and the ability to be around the guys.
“So, my role is to bring energy,” he added. “If a guy needs a drink, get a drink. If a guy just needs somebody to lean on, be somebody to lean on. I’m embracing it because that’s what I signed up for and that’s what they signed me for.”