The uncertainty over Donovan Mitchell’s future doesn’t seem to be bothering him.
Though the three-time All-Star guard’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors, with the Knicks interested in landing the high-scoring standout and the rebuilding Jazz believed to be serious about moving him, Mitchell enjoyed a Saturday in Coney Island.
Mitchell took several rounds of batting practice and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Brooklyn Cyclones’ game at Maimonides Park. He joked with reporters, signed autographs for fans and posed for photos as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
He had just one request.
“We’re not talking basketball,” the 25-year-old Elmsford, N.Y., native said. “Ain’t nobody talking basketball.”
The fans at the game, however, had other ideas. There were pleas for Mitchell to play for the Knicks. Several people in attendance had Knicks gear on. The word “Knicks” was used frequently.
“We want you to come to New York, Donovan,” one fan bellowed. “We need you in New York.”
A kid, standing next to him, screamed: “Pleeeaaaaase.”
That drew a smile and a grin from Mitchell.
After he threw out the first pitch, and walked toward the dugout, the fans gave it another go.
“Come to the Knicks, Donovan Mitchell,” a man yelled. “Come to the Knicks.”
“We love you in New York, ‘Spida,’ ” another said.
Then, a brief “Go, New York, Go New York, Go,” chant broke out.
Mitchell is in limbo at the moment. The Jazz recently traded veterans Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale and are in the process of tearing down the Western Conference contender.
New Utah CEO Danny Ainge made a killing in the Gobert deal, landing four first-round picks (three unprotected) and a pick swap, along with the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft, center Walker Kessler, and quality players Patrick Beverly, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in the blockbuster deal. There have been reports Ainge, in exchange for Mitchell, wants up to six first-round picks and young Knicks players Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes, a haul the Knicks have so far been unwilling to offer.
It’s no secret, however, that Knicks president Leon Rose, who was one of Mitchell’s agents, has an affinity for the guard. Mitchell has a friendship with new Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson through Brunson’s teammate at Villanova, NBA free agent Eric Paschall, and is close to Knicks assistant coach Johnnie Bryant from their days together with the Jazz. He is represented by CAA, the agency Rose once ran. Mitchell grew up locally and now lives mostly in Greenwich, Conn., during the offseason.
It was a matter of coincidence that Mitchell was in New York City at the Cyclones’ game shortly after trade rumors began to heat up. This was planned well in advance. Mitchell has strong connections to the Cyclones and the Mets’ franchise. His father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., works for them now as their senior director of player relations and community outreach. As a child, Mitchell served as a bat boy for the Cyclones when his father was the team’s hitting coach.
Mitchell showed a pretty good swing in batting practice, hitting four home runs. He played baseball growing up, before focusing all of his energy on basketball early in high school.
When he threw out the first pitch, Mitchell drilled a strike from the rubber — not the front of the mound as celebrities are known to do — but the catcher couldn’t squeeze it.
What that means for the Knicks’ pursuit of Mitchell remains unclear.