SALT LAKE CITY — Before he entered the locker room after posting a career-best 46 points, a couple of Utah Jazz legends were right there waiting for Donovan Mitchell in the hallway.
Fellow Louisville alum Darrell Griffith and former Utah Jazz All-Star Mark Eaton were among the distinguished alumni in the stands of Vivint Arena to witness Mitchell score 31 points in the second half of Utah’s 115-111 win against Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Both Eaton and Griffith’s numbers are dangling in the rafters, but they admired the mental toughness in the newest franchise star who is looking to someday reach that status.
“The thing about it is just that he stayed with it and that’s the beauty of being in the position he’s in,” Griffith told the Deseret News. “You don’t have to look over your shoulder, but when it’s time to step up and in that fourth quarter he was lights out.”
Griffith and Eaton were joined by Thurl Bailey, Mehmet Okur and Corey Crowder just one day after celebrating Mardi Gras Night at Vivint Arena on March 1, where dinner, live music and entertainment were provided at the semiformal VIP party.
After the third quarter, they signed balls for fans on the floor and were introduced on the jumbotron. Bryon Russell was also in attendance on Friday night, but couldn’t hang out in Salt Lake City for the game due to prior engagements.
For Jazz forward Jae Crowder, the son of Corey, that gesture from the organization to include his father was special.
“It’s very, very cool to see it and knowing how excited my dad is about it,” Jae Crowder said. “Leading up to it, it’s very humbling for our family and we appreciate it. These are just memories that we’ll have for a lifetime. That means that it’s a family-type organization and I’m glad to be a part of it, I’m glad my family is a part of it and we don’t take days like this for granted.”
Eaton often attends numerous Jazz games but felt a different level of intensity throughout Utah’s four-point win against the top-ranked Bucks. Witnessing Mitchell explode in the manner that he did, and the intensity of the crowd, Eaton compared the latest win to a postseason battle.
“Oh, my gosh. That was like a playoff game,” Eaton said. “You take on the best team in basketball and at the beginning of the game it looked like it was going to be a long night where those guys just manhandled them left and right, and then they spread the floor a little bit, Donovan gets going and starts leading the team and that was a great win.”
SWAT LAKE CITY: For every blocked shot on the night, Rudy Gobert decided to pledge $1,000 to the Utah Refugee Connection through his Rudy’s Kids Foundation. Gobert would end with one blocked shot against the Bucks but still met with kids from the organization after the game for a photo.4 comments on this story
GIVING BACK: During the national anthem of the Jazz-Bucks game, there were 32 children with rare and undiagnosed diseases and their siblings standing with players. Jazz players provided tickets through the player donation program for participating youth living with a chronic and undiagnosed or rare disease. Jazz assistant general manager Justin Zanik, his wife, Gina, and their three undiagnosed children organized Rare and Undiagnosed Network (RUN) to raise awareness for families dealing with similar issues.