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Decision to sit Donovan Mitchell for Game 1 against Grizzlies came after Sunday shootaround

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who will not play in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, warms up at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) warms up before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

On Sunday morning after the Utah Jazz’s shootaround in preparation for Game 1 of their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell declined to say to reporters if he would have a minutes restriction in what would be his first game back since April 16.

“Just for game planning purposes, I won’t say,” he said.

That said, he did emphasize, “There’s always going to be soreness when you come back from injury like this, always going to be things that haven’t been activated in, what has it been, five (weeks)? But I feel good. I’m ready to go tonight. No pain and excited to get going.”

As it turns out, Mitchell won’t play at all.

Shortly after shootaround on Sunday, the Jazz medical staff met and decided that they weren’t happy with where Mitchell was at in his recovery and came to the conclusion that they weren’t comfortable with Mitchell playing in Game 1.

Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said Mitchell will continue to be evaluated every day, but would not elaborate on what the medical and training staff were looking for as a benchmark for Mitchell to reach in order to play.

“They met after Donovan made those comments about how he was feeling and I think it’s reflective of what a competitor he is and how bad he wants to be out there,” Snyder said. “With respect to any details surrounding the medical process, that’s not something that I ever get into.”

Mitchell sustained a severe sprained right ankle in April against the Indiana Pacers, and the decision was made to hold him out of the final 16 games of the regular season as the Jazz still fought for the No. 1 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference.

This week, Mitchell returned to practice, and all indications were that he was on track to play in Game 1 Sunday. Mitchell has not appeared on the Jazz’s injury report since he returned to practice on Thursday, but Snyder indicated that practices haven’t necessarily been full-contact and that Mitchell, along with others, have been held out of certain portions of practice over the last few days.

“We really felt it was important for our team to get fresh,” Snyder said, “and so different guys, at various times, depending on how you know we were practicing... Donovan, in addition to other guys, there were portions of practice that they certainly were involved in. And there’s different ways you can practice.”

Following the news being reported that Mitchell would not play, he posted on his Instagram story that he was listening to Jay-Z’s song “Politics as Usual,” giving the impression that he is not happy with the decision to keep him out of the Jazz’s opening playoff game.

Mitchell is averaging 26.4 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game this season.

While Utah played much of the end of the regular season without both Mitchell and starting point guard Mike Conley, the team got Conley back for the final two games and Joe Ingles was the other starter in the backcourt.