Donovan Mitchell says his relationship with fellow Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert is improving and that he is looking forward to putting the situation behind him with the restart of the season looming.
Mitchell was irate with Gobert after the two players tested positive for the coronavirus in March. Gobert’s positive test on March 11 led to the suspension of the NBA season, and Mitchell confirmed his own positive test the following day.
Mitchell and Gobert didn’t speak for more than a month, but Mitchell indicated Thursday during a video conference call that the relationship is moving in the right direction.
“Right now, we’re good. We’re going out there ready to hoop,” Mitchell said. “I think the biggest thing that kind of sucked was that it took away from the guys on the team, took away from what the guys on the team were trying to do.”
The rift was deep in the aftermath of the positive tests as Mitchell was highly upset with Gobert. A report from ESPN stated that “Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings,” despite warnings about the seriousness of Covid-19. Mitchell agreed that there was heavy tension and termed it as “no secret” that he was upset with Gobert’s behaviour.
He said he was hopeful of solving the problem with Gobert privately. Of course, news got out about the intensity of the spat, and now he is hoping the upcoming restart of the NBA season near Orlando can shift the spotlight.
“I really wish that, going forward, I think that will be the primary focus, us jelling as a team,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, Rudy and I had Covid and whatever happened, happened. But now we’re ready to hoop and focus on the team as a whole.”
Mitchell, 23, led the Jazz in scoring with a career-best average of 24.2 points per game prior to the break. The third-pro also averaged 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists through 63 games and earned his first All-Star berth.
Gobert, who turned 28 on June 26, also received his first All-Star berth. He is averaging 15.1 points and a career-best 13.7 rebounds in 62 games.
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year also leads Utah in block shots per game at 2.0.
Gobert said in mid-April that he had spoken with Mitchell and that the relationship was fine.
“We’re both ready to go out there and try to win a championship for this team,” Gobert wrote on Instagram.
Mitchell is hoping the Jazz (41-23) can make an extended playoff run. He said the Gobert situation isn’t his biggest concern before Utah resumes play on July 30 against the New Orleans Pelicans on the opening night of action at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
He said staying healthy is much more of a worry.
“For me, the biggest thing with coming back is injury,” Mitchell said. “Not having played for maybe like 120 days or something like that, and kind of just being at a complete halt and then kind of going right into games that matter. It’s not like these games are just like the preseason where you’re sitting out, these games matter, and I think that’s my biggest concern.”
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