Donovan Mitchell was pissed at Rudy Gobert. He had good reason to be, it’s not just that Gobert had contracted the coronavirus, it’s that he was cavalier and joking about things before the diagnosis (sources say there was much more than just touching reporters’ microphones). The tension between the two may have existed before the virus (although the Jazz not living up to expectations this season had something to do with that).
It’s a potential problem in Utah as Mitchell and Gobert are the stars Utah built its team and system around. It had the vultures of other teams circling Utah, wondering if Utah would have to trade Gobert and another team could get a steal with the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Now Dennis Lindsey, the guy with the hammer on the Jazz, says the two have talked it out.
Jazz executive VP Dennis Lindsey on Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell: "They're ready to put this behind them, move forward, act professionally. … We're very pleased with the collective makeup of our group, Donovan and Rudy in particular. We look forward to moving forward."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 5, 2020
Have they really put this behind them? Time will tell. This is exactly what Lindsey needs to say right now to calm the waters around the team, but that doesn’t make it false. Gobert and Mitchell have talked, and only they know how they feel now. They are adults and teammates, they may well have moved on.
The Jazz sit as the four seed in the West when play was stopped, having a good season but not looking like the dark horse threat to the Lakers or Clippers some expected. Utah added Mike Conley (who was injured for chunks of the season) and Bojan Bogdanovic to boost the team’s offense, and that worked, they jumped into the top 10 in the NBA on that end. The problem is they sacrificed defense to do it, and they fell from an elite defense led by Gobert to outside the top 10 (that is less about Gobert and more about the talent around him).
If Utah is going to make noise in whatever format the NBA playoffs take, it’s going to come down to chemistry, the whole being more than the sum of its parts. The Jazz haven’t done that this season, and it seems like this rift — healed or not — does not make it more likely to happen.