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This is Donovan Mitchell’s moment

Watching Gregg Popovich work is one of the joys of being around Team USA.

During the NBA season when he’s in San Antonio he builds walls, actual and figurative, that purposely shield nuance. It’s understandable because it’s a competitive game, and Popovich, while often gregarious, prefers privacy.

But it’s also unfortunate, because it’s in those moments when Popovich becomes “Pop.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

In this setting with the national team, though, there are fewer barriers. There’s less time and less attachment. These players aren’t bound by contract, and in this scenario Popovich needs short-term buy-in more than the players need to give it.

It opens some windows into the revelatory Popovich stuff, and it’s happening in China as the U.S. gets ready to start the FIBA World Cup on Sunday when it takes on Czech Republic (ESPN+, 8:30 am ET).5

Over the last month, a beneficiary of this situation appears to be Donovan Mitchell. And because of that, these could end up being transformative weeks for the Utah Jazz star.

He’s getting some special attention from Popovich, who needs Mitchell to be great for Team USA to win gold. But there’s another reason, and this is what the whole point is.

“When you tap somebody that has leadership ability, it’s better to start it sooner,” Popovich explained this week. “The quicker you make them feel responsible that they can do that, the better. Then if that person grabs onto it then you know you chose the right guy.”

This is the Popovich sauce, in this case a pearl about how to cultivate a young player by giving more trust. It actually follows a Popovich method, which is to buck the norm. You can see it in those sideline interviews he’s famous for. Come at him soft and he’ll often come back hard. Come hard and he’ll often go soft, keeping everyone off-balance.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

It goes against conventional wisdom that on a Team USA squad with a number of established veterans like Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Harrison Barnes, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee, that Popovich would guide one of the youngest into a leading voice.

But here the old master is working, it’s the 22-year-old Mitchell who he’s entrusting to guide this important enterprise. Popovich seems to see the leadership qualities in Mitchell that Jazz leadership and his Utah teammates have talked about for the last two years.