Paul said fans that expected the point guard solution to head to Atlanta were not alone. “I got up at the draft,” Paul said of when the second pick was about to be announced. “They pretty much told me they were picking me. I found a house (in Gwinnett County) and everything.” Instead, Deron Williams went with the third pick to the Utah Jazz and Paul was snapped up by New Orleans with the fourth pick.
Josh Jackson: I heard about what happened to Russell Westbrook in Utah. I think it’s something that happens a little bit too much. There is some way we should try to control it and get a handle on it. Players are getting fined. Fans are still allowed to say whatever they want to say. They’re close to the court and able to say all these things. That shouldn’t happen. That shouldn’t be allowed. Anything that someone says of that nature is all bad and on the same level. Nothing is worse than the other. Of course, I’ve heard something racist on the college level and high school. Nothing I would want to share. I haven’t heard it in the NBA. Ways we can get a handle on it? I really don’t know. Maybe moving the court a little further from the fans. But that sucks for the fans. …
As the Utah Jazz’s private plane touched down in New York during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, “The Ruler’s Back” by Jay-Z was blasted upon the request of Donovan Mitchell. In many ways the song was symbolic of the occasion. As a young boy, Mitchell would often survey the action from the nosebleed section of Madison Square Garden but has returned to face his hometown Knicks on Wednesday as a rising star for the Jazz. Reminiscing on those days of watching Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd from atop of the World’s Most Famous Arena brought a huge smile to the 22-year-old’s face following a 19-point performance against the Wizards on Monday.
“I remember just going and being all the way at the top at the rafters, watching the games,” Mitchell recalled. “Watching (New York) Rangers games, which was a lot of fun as well, watching the Harlem Globetrotters in there, going to concerts. “I’ve literally done every possible thing you can do in Madison Square Garden,” he added. “I can’t pick out one game for you, because it kind of all goes together, but I think just being able to be in that arena is just something special.”
As happy as Mitchell is to be home, he’s also enthusiastic to truly appreciate the experience of returning to the same place he developed those lifetime memories as a child in the nosebleed seats. Now, he’s front and center of the NBA action while cherishing the moment. “At least this time I can process a lot of it,” Mitchell said. “I think last year the whole trip was really just a blur to me. I think this year it’s more relaxed and I’m just excited to see friends and family but also excited to play in The Garden. My mindset is just to get focused. I’m kind of more laid back and more controlled. I think it’ll be great and I’m excited for it, too.”
DeShawn Stevenson on his high-school-to-NBA transition: “Mine was tough. I feel like I had to grind harder. I didn’t get the same chances as most straight-out-of-high-school guys. I went to a team that had been to the Finals two years in a row and was trying to compete for a championship and they had John Stockton, Karl Malone, Byron Russell and John Starks. We had seasoned vets, so I didn’t play that much. Also, I had a coach who was hard-nosed in Jerry Sloan; he didn’t play any games. I came out of high school and was flashy, so it was an adjustment. I kind of got stereotyped… It was tough, man. Sometimes I would get picked on really bad…”