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Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert: What we know, and what teammates expect when they return to the court

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) five each other as the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat play in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Utah won 116-101.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) five each other during game against the Miami Heat at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — No relationship is perfect.

That’s the message that Utah Jazz players who have spoken publicly about a possible rift between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have tried to get across.

On Friday, veteran guard Mike Conley became the latest to stress the point that NBA players are allowed to argue and not get along with one another and still be successful on the court.

“Some of the best players in the world, in our game ever, have disagreed on things or had arguments or fought in practices, whatever it may be, and have went on to win championships and be successful and be brothers for life,” Conley said on a video conference with reporters.

As far as Mitchell and Gobert are concerned, Conley isn’t worried and doesn’t think that any lingering negative feelings would be a problem once the NBA returns to action.

“Between Donovan and Rudy, if they feel a certain way about each other — which I honestly don’t think that’s the case at all — they’re grown men and they’ll handle it and they’ll go out there and compete and try to win, night in and night out. You would never notice on our end.”

But why is it even necessary for reporters to ask Conley about the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert?

The string of events and what we know

It all started when a tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski went out early on the morning of March 12, the day after Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test was the impetus for the NBA suspending the season.

“Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN. Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive,” the tweet read.

With the report of unrest in the Jazz locker room being punctuated by noting that a second Jazz player had tested positive, the insinuation seemed to be that Gobert transmitted the virus to Mitchell.

But the line of transmission, if knowable at all, is not clear. Contact tracing is one of the keys to stopping the spread of the virus, but definitive answers as to where Jazz players or anyone else come in contact with COVID-19 is one of the ongoing mysteries of the highly contagious virus.

A March 9 video of Gobert touching media microphones and voice recorders then went viral (no pun intended) as evidence of Gobert’s cavalier attitude, which later prompted his apology. Gobert did not report having symptoms until March 11.

Both players later posted on social media, with Gobert apologizing and saying he wished that he’d taken the situation more seriously. Mitchell’s Instagram post stoked more fuel to the fire with what many believed to be purposefully ambiguous wording.

“We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them,” read Mitchell’s Instagram caption.

On the morning of March 16, Mitchell remotely appeared on “Good Morning America” and told Robin Roberts that he “needed a cooling off period” after learning about Gobert’s diagnosis and then his own.

The next day, The Athletic’s Tony Jones reported that sources confirmed that Mitchell had been frustrated with the coronavirus diagnosis and Gobert’s attitude as it related to the situation.

Jazz teammate Joe Ingles appeared on the podcast “Tampering” on March 24 and said he didn’t think any hard feelings between Gobert and Mitchell would impact the team or their ability to play well together.

On April 10, The Athletic published a story detailing what went on behind the scenes in the days leading up to the moment in Oklahoma City when Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19 and what happened after. That report included one line, from an unnamed source, saying that the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert “doesn’t appear salvageable.”

Shortly after the story was published that morning, Ingles posted a tweet that simply read, “LOL.”

On April 12, in an Instagram Live video, Gobert admitted that he and Mitchell didn’t speak for a few days but that they had since spoken and that they would be professionals moving forward.

“We’re both ready to go out there and try to win a championship for this team,” he said. “You know, it’s all about being a professional. Everyone’s got different relationships. It’s never perfect. People that are married, it’s never perfect. So, you know, me and my teammate, it’s far from perfect, but at the end of the day, we both want the same thing, and it’s winning. We’re both grown men and gonna do what it takes to win.”

On Wednesday, Mitchell said that “we’ve moved on” and that he “is ready to hoop” in an Instagram live video with rapper Fat Joe. Mitchell was asked about rumors of him wanting to leave Utah and possibly find a home with a New York-based team and he laughed it off saying that he is more than happy with the Utah Jazz.

Thursday morning on Salt Lake sports talk radio station 1280 the Zone, Ingles reiterated his belief that the frustration previously felt between Mitchell and Gobert would not have an impact on the team. Referring to his March 24 statements he said, “I’d be even more confident now saying that we’re going to be totally fine. I was confident back then saying it, otherwise I obviously wouldn’t have said it. I’m not going to say something I don’t believe in.”

Friday, Conley echoed previous statements and said he had no worries about the future of the team.

“I feel comfortable knowing that we have two pros who go out there and work everyday and care about the team and are just going to do what they’ve got to do to win,” Conley said.

Neither Mitchell nor Gobert has been available to be interviewed by local reporters.