SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, in a brief interview with ESPN, responded to Philadelphia 76ers standout Ben Simmons' assertion that he's "100 percent" the Rookie of the Year.
"I really don't care," Mitchell told ESPN. "The biggest thing for me is that we're in the fourth seed and fighting for the third seed. If I'm worrying about individual awards, I'm giving up on my teammates and what we're trying to build here. Clearly, I'm not the one losing sleep over this. I don't care."
But Mitchell had some fun with the debate, arriving ahead of Tuesday's game against the Warriors wearing a hoodie that read: "Rookie: An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team." It offered a lighthearted jab at Simmons' status as a "redshirt rookie" after he spent what would have been his original rookie season sidelined with an injury.
Adidas approached Mitchell about wearing the hoodie, and he went along with the joke.
"We just wanted to all have fun with it,'' Mitchell said. "That's all it is, having fun and just enjoying it."
Donovan Mitchell's hoodie though lmao 👀 pic.twitter.com/VFbeugz77i— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 10, 2018
Even Blake Griffin had some fun with the debate on Twitter, joking about his own Rookie of the Year award, which he won in 2011 after missing his entire draft year season due to injury.
bro it was like 8 years ago.... ohhhhh i get it https://t.co/b3quTj2JvJ— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) April 11, 2018
Following the 76ers' 15th straight win Tuesday night, Simmons said it was "all love" when he was told about Mitchell's sweatshirt.
"No, he's implying that I am a rookie because it's my first season," Simmons said when told Mitchell's sweatshirt implied Simmons was not a rookie. "No, it's funny, it's all love. He's a great player. If I wasn't a rookie this year, he would've definitely had it. But I'm not, so ..."
Simmons made his remarks about the Rookie of the Year race in an interview with ESPN on Saturday. Mitchell said he first caught wind of Simmons' comments after receiving numerous calls and text messages on Monday morning.
"I got concerned at first," he told ESPN. "I thought it was something serious. Then I heard about what he said and I was like, 'Whatever.' That's not my concern."
The part of Simmons' interview that received the bulk of attention was when he dismissed the notion that it was a two-man race for Rookie of the Year. Simmons also stated there were no other rookies who have caught his attention this year.
"That's why I tweeted that [Waka Flocka] GIF with the caption, 'Okay...,'" Mitchell said.
When asked whether players should be eligible for the award based on their first playing time or their first contractual year with the league, Mitchell said:
"I'll say this. I'll put it in perspective for people who obviously don't play in the NBA and don't know the life of the NBA. So, let's say you have an exam to take on June 1 and you have a whole year to study for that exam, you're going to get a pretty good grade on it, aren't you? But some people may not have all that time to prepare for that exam. So, that's how I look at it and I hope that puts it in perspective for people. But at the end of the day, we're in the fourth seed. I got the Defensive Player of the Year and the Coach of the Year on my team, so I'm happy."
Simmons, when questioned about the Rookie of the Year topic this season, has made it known how much he covets the award. According to those close to him, Simmons didn't view his comments as a slight to Mitchell or any other rookie.
Simmons, an Australia native, is doing it all for the Sixers. At 6-foot-10, he's averaging 16.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game. And his team is sitting in the third spot in the Eastern Conference, enjoying a league-high 15-game winning streak.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, is averaging a rookie-high 20.5 points per game and became the fastest rookie in league history to knock down 150 3-pointers, reaching the mark in 63 games.
"If I win, cool. I'm trying to win games," Mitchell said. "But I don't care. I don't."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.