For multiple years now, reported tension has been bubbling under
the surface between the Utah’s Jazz superstar duo in Donovan
Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Whether it be pointed remarks via media
scrums or passive-aggressive remarks to one another, many teams
have been eyeing Salt Lake City as the next place to watch for a
potentially disgruntled All-Star.
Mitchell is one of the most promising age-25 and under scorers
in the NBA. Possessing unreal athleticism and three-level scoring
capabilities, Mitchell has shown on multiple occasions what his
ceiling outcome could look like. Meanwhile, Gobert is a three-time
Defensive Player of the Year winner. The way Gobert’s presence
simply impacts one side of the court is truly incredible, which is
why he’s changing the game for defensive-related accolades.
This week, Mitchell sat down with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes on his
Posted Up podcast to go over his relationship with Gobert, plus
countless other topics.
“I think it's interesting that — first of all, we're good. I
just want to go on record of saying that,” Mitchell said when asked about his
relationship with Gobert. “But I think it's interesting that
that stuff happens and him and I have never played at this high of
a level together since we've been here. So I make the joke — for a
group that hates each other, man, we're playing pretty well. And we
can be even better.
"So for me, it's like we're good, we're focused on winning,
we're working towards a common goal, and like I said, it starts at
me and big fella. If we want to get to ultimately win a
championship, it's going to start with us. And reports are going to
be reports, people are going to say what they want to say and if we
win a championship, then there's really nothing to be said. So
that's the goal. And we're good. As teammates we're good, we're
ready to try and find ways to win. Because we've made it to the
first round or second round since we've both been here and we're
looking to do bigger things.”
After a surprising slump last month due to injuries ravaging
their roster in the short-term, the Jazz have caught fire as of
late. Winners of six straight in relatively emphatic fashion, Utah
is catching momentum at such an ideal time to rebound back in the
Western Conference standings. Currently, the Jazz check in as the
No. 4 seed with a 36-21 record.
As Mitchell alluded to Haynes, though, going much further than
before and winning something much more are the most important goals
right now. Utah wants to get over the proverbial playoff hump, one
that keeps getting in its way every time. This could be the main
reason why many believe there’s tension within the Jazz’s locker
room between their two most important pieces.
“I mean, I said it in the conference. People have their own way
of expressing things,” Mitchell said about Gobert. “I think the
bigger way would have been just do it in house, but it's water
under the bridge for me now, for us as a group. That's just how he
chose to address it. Like, whatever.
"And like I said, we have a common goal, Chris. So look, I'm not
going to let anything take — especially for myself, when I speak
for — I’m not going to let anything take me off my course. I'm
trying to find a way to be the best leader, the best teammate
possible, and go out there and elevate and be the best that we can
The Mitchell-Gobert dynamic has been fizzling for a few years,
which led to Haynes’ questioning on the situation. With two players
taking up a good chunk of their salary cap, would the Jazz's
potential issues lead to choosing one over the other down the road?
Mitchell put it simply as two hyper-competitive stars who want to
take the Jazz to new heights. In this year’s hierarchy in the West,
they have to make up ground with true championship contenders like
the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
“I think so. I think it's good. I think it's cool where we're
at,” Mitchell said. “I think — like I said,
when you work with someone and you have something that you want to
get to and you have people who are competitive around you, you have
people that are competitive — when I say around, I mean our
teammates and coaching staff. When you have people that — two
people that are competitive, you want to ultimately be the
"I would take that as opposed to two dudes who just want to sit
on their ass and do nothing. You know what I mean? You have two
guys who are going to go out there and compete. He's a three-time
Defensive Player of the Year, I'm a three time All-Star, we're
going to find ways to get better individually and collectively as a
group. [David] Locke told me this, we're top five in pick-and-roll
together because we understand each other, we understand each
other's tendencies and habits and finding ways to get better.”
For the Jazz to break through their ceiling and finally hoist
the Larry O’Brien trophy, they will have to see Mitchell and Gobert
iron out these longstanding moments of tension. Although Mitchell
is saying everything is fine, these murmurs have been out in league
circles for years now. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Is that the case with Mitchell and Gobert in Utah?
On the court, Utah fits right into the middle of potential
winners of the West. Phoenix and Golden State sit up top. The
Memphis Grizzlies have leapfrogged Utah and others for the No. 3
seed, leading this tier of playoff competitors.
Behind Memphis, all of the following teams feel like they’re in
the same position for chasing a championship in 2021-22: Utah, the
Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. And honestly, it feels like
the Nuggets and Mavericks could both jump ahead of the Jazz
depending on how the season finishes.
If Jamal Murray returns, Denver is going to be such a tough out
with defending MVP Nikola Jokic playing at an unreal level once
again. After Dallas traded Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Doncic is going
to play a James Harden-esque role from a usage perspective. Can
Doncic singlehandedly carry the Mavericks past a team like
The Jazz are in such an interesting position not only this
season, but over the next few years as well trying to capitalize on
their championship window with Mitchell and Gobert. If Utah
continues to go nowhere in the postseason, serious questions will
eventually need to be raised about its inside-out duo.
In the meantime, everything remains under the surface, as eyes
continue to wander out towards Salt Lake City checking in on the
long-term futures of Mitchell and Gobert.
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