Seconds after Donovan Mitchell finished fielding questions from reporters, the Utah Jazz guard, unprompted, took a moment to recognize New Orleans Pelicans rookie Herb Jones.
Mitchell and the Jazz had just suffered arguably their worst loss of the season to the Pelicans. They trailed by as many as 37 points in the contest and never seriously challenged the Pelicans and eventually fell 124-90, a season-low for the group.
But the performance of Jones, who recorded two points, four assists, three steals and one block, once again caught the attention of Mitchell. To offer praise to Jones after suffering a blowout loss was certainly a big gesture by the All-Star.
Pelicans head coach Willie Green said Mitchell had plenty to say.
I actually spoke to Donovan in the hallway and he talked about Herb. He just said he is one of the few rookies that he has to plan for because his instincts are incredible. Herb has been doing that all season for us. He has been fantastic. Even when he doesn’t score the ball, he is in the right place. He makes the right plays on offense and we’re extremely blessed to have Herb on our team.
Jones was tasked with guarding Mitchell throughout the contest. Mitchell finished with 14 points in 30 minutes and was held to just 1-of-7 shooting from the field with Jones as his primary defender. Jones also blocked one of his shots.
Mitchell previously commended the play of Jones when the two teams last met on Jan. 3. The result was much different than Friday’s as Mitchell scored 29 points, including 17 on 7-of-9 shooting from the field with Jones matched up on him.
Despite having great success in that contest, Mitchell acknowledged how tough Jones can make it on him and how difficult it is to score when he is in the game. Jones, who appreciated the respect from Mitchell, loves the opportunity to take on those assignments.
It is fun. I love to compete. I expect the opposing player to bring their best just like I’m trying to bring mine every night. Whoever gets the best of that person comes out on top and wins. I love competing. I show up every day and just want to compete.
Jones is sixth in the NBA with 92 steals and fifth among all players in deflections. His 7-foot wingspan disrupts passing lanes while his quickness and agility help him stay in front of players, as he did against Mitchell on Friday.
He has certainly impressed the coaching staff and his teammates. Now, others around the league are starting to notice him. He has consistently produced when called upon and that should ensure only good things are in store for him down the stretch.
But, as Mitchell said, it is time to give Jones the respect he deserves.
“I keep saying this: Herb Jones is solid,” Mitchell said. “He deserves his flowers. He is only a rookie but you know.”
This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!