14/07/2024

Donovan Mitchell’s lack of MVP buzz has more to do with Cleveland Cavaliers playoff failure

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Donovan Mitchell’s lack of MVP buzz has more to do with Cleveland Cavaliers playoff failure

Mitchell may be having an MVP-caliber season, but the recent postseason collapse is why neither he nor the team are getting their respect.

Mitchell may be having an MVP-caliber season, but the recent postseason collapse is why neither he nor the team are getting their respect.

J.B. Bickerstaff, Donovan Mitchell and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t getting the national attention they deserve. They’ve given different answers, ranging from not caring at all to some mild annoyance about that.

Mitchell gave the most accurate answer as to why. It was the first thing out of his mouth when the inevitable MVP question was finally asked.

“I think it’s just based off of last year’s playoff performance,” Mitchell said. “It’s a product of our team as well. We’re not getting the recognition, that love, because of the way we finished the season.” Last year’s playoff performance resulted in the Cavs being bulldozed out of the first round of the playoffs.

Nothing the Cavaliers do in the regular season will change that sentiment if they can’t back it up this spring. This is why Mitchell is always quick to point out the month when asked about the team’s rise up the standings.

“Ultimately, you’re as good as your last playoffs,” Mitchell said. “That’s not who are so we’re going out there and proving it. But it’s February 14. What we show you today, what we show you tomorrow, what we show you next week doesn’t matter. Once we get to April and continue to play this way [is what matters].”

Still: not being able to change that perception even when winning 18 of 20 games is frustrating even if their words say otherwise.

“I don’t care,” Bickerstaff said. “You know what matters to us is what we’re doing and how we’re handling our business.”

“We don’t really think about it,” Darius Garland said. “We try to keep everything inside. We’re just worrying about what we have to do on a night-to-night basis.”

Their true feelings on the matter seem to come out when asked about Mitchell’s MVP chances.

“I feel like I deserve to be in that conversation,” Mitchell said. “I feel like the work shows for itself. I’m not one to go out there and vocalize it. I’m gonna go out there and just do it. But ultimately it’s not up to me.”

“It’s foolish,” Bickerstaff said. “You have a team who is tops in the league in offensive categories, defensive categories, wins, loses, and he’s having a phenomenal year. The best of his career. . . For him to not be in that conversation is kind of laughable to me.”

At this point, the national perception isn’t up to the Cavaliers. They can only control what’s happening now and how they respond in the playoffs. That’s how they will get the recognition they desire.

The ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitude that pervades sports talk is shaping the opinion of Mitchell unfairly. But that’s what happens when you’re a part of consecutive first-round exits while struggling in both. It’s part of the territory of being a superstar.

It’s also a reality for unproven teams that haven’t answered the bell in two straight post-seasons. People need to see before they can believe.

“At the end of the day, we got to continue to build ourselves when it comes to April, that’s when it counts,” Mitchell said. “You can call it unfair, it’s just the way it is. It’s a regular season award, but you’re judged based on a lot of your success in the playoffs no matter what you do in the regular season.

“Understanding that, we’re building good habits and when it gets to April we can handle our business and make a push.”

“You can see the numbers,” Garland said. “If you just watched the Cavs, I mean, you’d definitely see it.”

The juxtaposition between the national media attention, which is much more focused on where Mitchell could be in a few seasons, and how the team is viewed locally and within the locker room isn’t lost on Mitchell. This all came together late in Wednesday’s win against the Chicago Bulls when the entire arena was chanting MVP for Mitchell.

“To have the support of not just my teammates and the organization, but the fans doing all that means a lot,” Mitchell said. “It never gets old. As a kid, you visualize that at the free throw line sitting in your driveway. To be in a real NBA game, doing that on a consistent basis, and hearing that is awesome.”

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