To say that Donovan Mitchell was not happy on Sunday would be an understatement.

The Utah Jazz All-Star guard thought that he was going to be able to play in Game 1 against  the Grizzlies as late as noon on game day when he told reporters that he was “ready to go.”

But, just hours before tipoff the Jazz medical and training staff met with Mitchell and told him that they didn’t feel comfortable with him playing that night and they’re the people who have the final say.

“I felt like I should have played and the experts said no,” Mitchell said Monday after practice. “It was unfair to my team. I feel like I let them down in the sense of when you’re not there for them in a playoff game. That probably hurts me more than anything else. It eats at me. I barely slept because you think about that stuff.”

Mitchell paced the baseline and sideline during the game, actively calling out to his teammates as they faced the Grizzlies without him. He was an active participant in timeout huddles and spoke to the officials during stoppages. He wanted to be on the court and made no secret about his frustrations.

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The Jazz announced on Monday that Mitchell has been cleared and will be available to play in Game 2.

What changed between Thursday, when Mitchell was cleared for full participation in practice, and subsequently not on the Jazz’s injury report through the weekend, and Sunday afternoon when Mitchell was ruled out and then again on Monday is not exactly clear.

Mitchell said that there were a series of tests and drills that he went through Sunday and while he felt like he was pain-free and ready to play, the medical staff saw things differently. Mitchell and Jazz coach Quin Snyder either didn’t go into detail regarding the medical staff’s reasoning and explanation for holding Mitchell out of Game 1, or declined to provide detail all together, instead saying they are ready to move forward and focus on Wednesday’s Game 2 of the series.

“I felt like I should have played and the experts said no.” — Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell

When the Deseret News asked Mitchell if there was any fear that a similar scenario might play out ahead of Game 2, with Mitchell being ruled out late or his availability coming into question, his answer was clear.


In the hours that followed the news that Mitchell would not be play in Game 1 against the Grizzlies there was a lot of speculation about what was going on behind the scenes. Was it gamesmanship? Did the Jazz purposefully change gears to try to pull the rug out from under Memphis?

That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Not only was Mitchell shocked and upset by the medical staff’s decision to sideline him, but all of his teammates expected him to be on the court that night too. Rudy Gobert woke up from a nap around 4 p.m. on Sunday and said the news came as a big surprise.

“He’s our leader and best player,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “I don’t know what happened, honestly, with the decision for him and the medical staff to keep him out.”

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No matter how much the Jazz players tried to say that missing Mitchell was no excuse for losing Game 1, 112-109, to the Grizzlies, there’s no doubt that the game plan dramatically shifted and that the team was not prepared to play without its All-Star shooting guard.

Mitchell said there was no setback or re-aggravation of his ankle, which was sprained on April 16 and kept him out of the final 16 games of the regular season. He also tried to squash any rumors of lingering anger or internal strife between him and the Jazz organization.

“It was made to be a big thing ... and I understand that. But we’re here to win and I couldn’t be out there to do that and I was frustrated. It’s as simple as that. There’s no internal (problems). Like, that’s what happened.” — Donovan Mitchell

“It was made to be a big thing ... and I understand that,” Mitchell said. “But we’re here to win and I couldn’t be out there to do that and I was frustrated. It’s as simple as that. There’s no internal (problems). Like, that’s what happened.”

Mitchell, like numerous other NBA players, has his own team of trainers and personnel that he works with outside of the team and there had been questions about whether there were disagreements between the two groups. But Mitchell tried to squash that narrative as well, saying the recovery process has been collaborative with his own people and the team and that the relationship between the two had nothing to do with his frustrations on Sunday.

The message that Mitchell wanted to share Monday was that, while he was not happy  about how things played out Sunday, he and the team were ready to move forward.

Mitchell said he spoke to the team Monday and let them know where he stood, no matter what they might be reading or hearing.

“We have Twitter and Instagram, and this has been everywhere, so it’s one thing to kind of let it linger and swell or you can just go ahead and kill it from the jump,” Mitchell said.  “I talked to just my teammates and said, ‘Look, we’re in here together.’”