SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell doesn’t want to continue talking about the relationship between him and Rudy Gobert.
“Right now we’re good. We’re going out there ready to hoop,” he said on Thursday when he spoke to local reporters for the first time since the NBA shut down on March 11.
Mitchell admitted that he was angry when the pair tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, he publicly acknowledged that things had smoothed over and that he wanted to move on from the situation. Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said that the two had spoken and there was no internal worry about their relationship, and multiple teammates had commented on the situation saying that things were A-OK.
When public discourse continued and stories continued to surface referencing the strained relationship between the two Jazz stars, Mitchell didn’t feel it was necessary to add to the conversation.
He said he was moving on and felt like that should have been enough. Mitchell didn’t feel the need to address things that were untrue, pointing to an article in The Athletic that called Mitchell and Gobert’s relationship “unsalvageable.”
“I wasn’t going to continue addressing something that I one, didn’t feel was true,” he said. “That’s part of the maturity and growing up. I could have easily went back and forth on Twitter and kind of addressed it, and there was no need for that. My teammates and my coaches know how I feel and I feel like that was a moment where I was like, ‘That’s it. I’m leaving it at that.’”
In Mitchell’s eyes, the whole narrative around him and Gobert wouldn’t have stopped if he’d said more, and he didn’t owe that to anyone in the media or outside of the Jazz. If he said something on social media or started calling out every thing that was said that wasn’t true, it would have just continued to shine a light on a storyline that he didn’t want to perpetuate.
The whole thing was taking away from what the Jazz were doing that was positive. The Jazz were working hard to stay connected and stay in shape and continue to be prepared for the possibility of returning to play. That was the focus internally within the Jazz and Mitchell didn’t want put the external focus on a minor tiff between him and Gobert that was already in the past.
“It really took away from what guys were working on, cause we talk about what we’ve been working on the past two months and I feel like that’s been hijacked because of this whole thing,” Mitchell said. “It’s easy to go out there and kind of say something but no, I wanted my teammates to know ‘this is how I feel.’ And there are moments where you’re just tired of continuing to hear it over and over again and get tired of addressing it.”
Unfortunately for Mitchell, the story isn’t dead yet.
Gobert will be speaking to reporters at some point before the team heads to Orlando on July 7. He will be asked for his side of things and how he sees their relationship, and exactly as Mitchell predicted the focus will not be on what the Jazz are doing to prepare for their upcoming playoff run.
“I really wish that us going forward, the primary focus will be us gelling as a team because obviously Rudy and I had COVID and whatever happened, happened,” Mitchell said. “But now we’re ready to hoop and focus on our team as a whole, and not trying to take the attention away from what everybody has got going on. Obviously we’ve got Bojan (Bogdanovic) out and we have some guys that are really looking good and ready to step up and that’s what we’re really excited about.”
In addition the the tension caused when Mitchell and Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, Mitchell also addressed the fact that there had been reports of tension between the two prior to the pandemic.
Mitchell said on-court or basketball-related tension between him and Gobert is normal and a part of having two guys who see themselves as vital to the team’s success.
“There’s going to be tension. There’s going to be back and forth,” he said. “It’s always going to happen — it happens on every team. It doesn’t matter if they win championships or if they’re a last-place team, it’s always going to happen. In a work environment, you’re not always going to get along.”
Mitchell said any issues between him and Gobert that were basketball-related had nothing to do with how he felt when he tested positive for the coronavirus noting that the issues were totally separate.
Even if everything that Mitchell said on Thursday is true, that the pair’s working relationship is healthy and normal, and even if after today Mitchell is hoping that this story is squashed, there will continue to be a microscope on them.
Both players are so important to the Jazz’s makeup that even the slightest hint of unease will bring all of these things back to the forefront of the conversation. In that sense, Mitchell is right, there’s not much that he can say to stop people from speculating or assuming.