SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – We know the Utah Jazz will open the NBA Playoffs as the #1 seed in the Western Conference Sunday at home. We don’t know at what time or who their opponent will be.
But we do know the Jazz biggest goal this week after clinching the top seed is to get Donovan Mitchell ready to play.
It has been over four weeks and 16 games since Mitchell sprained his ankle April 16th against Indiana. The Jazz were extra cautious with Mitchell, holding him out, hoping he’d be close to 100 percent for the playoffs. The Jazz have not officially commented on his status, but the team is preparing like he’ll be back.
“It’s something that Don is thinking about, we’re all thinking about is him coming back,” said Mike Conley. “We’re making sure everything is laid out for him to where he can come back and just fit in like he always has.”
Conley’s transition back into the lineup after missing nine games with a hamstring injury was smooth. Conley played in the Jazz final two games of the regular season against Oklahoma City and Sacramento.
But Mitchell is the number one option on Jazz, averaging 33.4 minutes and 26.4 points per game, and the Jazz need him back at his all-star level in order to contend for a title.
“He’s the guy,” Conley said. “He knows he’s the guy. He knows he’s going to take us as far as we want to go. So when he’s healthy, and he’s getting there, when he’s excited and feeling good, we know he’s going to do well with our team.”
Conley does not see an issue with working Mitchell back into the lineup. But even if Mitchell is a little rusty in the first few games, the Jazz have proved they have other scorers to pick up the slack, like Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Georges Niang and Joe Ingles. The Jazz went 10-6 in Mitchell’s absence.
“He’s a guy who is so unselfish,” Conley said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make it easy on him during the week to get him back in shape and get him back ready to go. I’m sure he’ll be as confident and ready as ever.”
As for the rest of the team, this week is all about getting healthy and staying sharp.
“It’s time to tune it up and get ready for the playoffs,” said Jordan Clarkson. “We’ve got a big run in front of us, but definitely with this week off there is going to be a lot of treatment and getting right.”
“It’s really about recharging,” Rudy Gobert added. “We need to get healthy, and get physically and mentally prepared.”