Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is struggling upon return from injuries

Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Since Donovan Mitchell returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers lineup from knee tendinitis and a broken nose, the crew is 1-1, but he notably looks unlike himself. He isn’t putting the same pressure on the rim to score or set up his man and is settling for more jump shots.

Before coming back, he was absent for six consecutive games. He had just played twice in a short-lived comeback following seven straight missed outings. A leave of that much time ensures his finishing and conditioning are off. Wearing the mask could also be a factor- it’s uncomfortable, and despite being there for protection, he may not trust himself yet to play his contact-seeking style for fear of taking a nasty blow to the head.

Against Philly, he supplied 12 points on 30.8 percent accuracy, with eight dimes, three boards and two steals. He was hunting deep pull-ups and the dropped defender in pick and roll, unsuccessfully, making one out of seven tries. Mitchell's uncharacteristically poor production continued in the following match.

In Denver, against the long and versatile Nuggets defense, Spida converted only three baskets on 12 attempts. He was invisible, spending too much time camped on the perimeter. Perhaps the altitude affected him, but his lack of inside pressure was one of the handful of reasons the Cavaliers were massacred in the Mile High City.

Mitchell has been Cleveland's high scorer all season alongside a career-high 5.9 rebounds per game. If the Cavaliers hope to achieve lofty goals, Mitchell needs to be at 100 percent. Another short playoff run could spell trouble for Mitchell's possible extension and raise concerns about the team's future.

Every Cavalier has something to improve upon and a question to answer ahead of the postseason. The burden for success cannot fall entirely on Mitchell, but he has looked much less effective since returning from injury woes.

Did the Cavaliers bring Spida back too early?

Mitchell is not himself, and it's not clear why he is playing. If he continues like this, it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to finish the season in one piece. But management plus coaches and trainers should consider if it’s even worth it. J.B. Bickerstaff indicated the team would as he wrapped up his postgame presser following the loss to the Nuggets. "It's a conversation that we'll have to have, that's a tough balance, too, of rhythm. I know he wants to play... We have not had any conversations about him sitting out at this point."

What is there to consider? Aside from his nose recovering, is the public supposed to believe he will play himself into better health? People must have missed the memo that the fountain of rejuvenation arrived at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

With such a tight race in the top seeds of the East, the Cavaliers desperately need every win possible. At the cost of their best player, though, is a separate question and problem. Cleveland does not have much time to figure things out, making their dilemma much more critical. The coaching and medical staff are still working with Dean Wade's lingering knee pain, who has no timeline for return yet. Injuries have plagued the Cavaliers all season, and Mitchell has been no exception since All-Star Weekend.

The Cleveland Cavaliers continue a final five-game road trip on Tuesday, April 2 against the 29-45 Utah Jazz for the first night of a back-to-back. The Cavs then visit the Phoenix Suns on April 3 before traveling to Los Angeles, California for another back-to-back series against the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7 respectively. Cleveland's final three games of the regular season will be held at home.

A Cavaliers spokesperson did not respond to the King James Gospel’s immediate request for comment when asked if Mitchell is still feeling pain and if wearing the mask is a problem.

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