Jazz's Rudy Gobert on Donovan Mitchell Rumors: People Are Trying to 'Divide Us'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JUNE 16: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz talks to Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz during the game against the LA Clippers during Round 2, Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 16, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Echoing his head coach, Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert downplayed any friction between him and teammate Donovan Mitchell on Thursday and argued people are stirring up nonexistent drama.

"There's always going to be noise," Gobert said at the 4:32 mark of an interview with ESPN's Malika Andrews on NBA Today. "There's a lot of teams and a lot of people that would love for us to break apart. ... We know that everything that happens within our team on the court, off the court is being looked at with a big scope. And people are looking for anything they can find to just try to divide us."

The comments came two days after Jazz head coach Quin Snyder spoke to reporters for nearly 20 minutes, in part to quash any rumored strife between his two best players.

It's no secret that Gobert and Mitchell's relationship was a bit strained after the NBA paused the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taylor Rooks @TaylorRooks

Snippet from the conversation with Rudy Gobert addressing media speculation about his relationship with Donovan Mitchell: <a href="https://t.co/jQ8KaPEnZs">pic.twitter.com/jQ8KaPEnZs</a>

Gobert's positive test is what precipitated the league's decision to halt play, and he was accused of being a bit reckless—especially in hindsight—when he seemed to make light of the pandemic during a media availability.

The 7'1" center told The Athletic's Sam Amick in February 2021 that he and Mitchell had "a very honest conversation" that helped them move on from any lingering animus toward each other.

However, the Gobert/Mitchell dynamic has again become a topic.

After claiming the top seed in the Western Conference last year, the Jazz are in fifth place and 15 games back of the first-place Phoenix Suns. Failing to match the pace it set one season ago is obviously a bit frustrating for Utah.

But the issue appears to be deeper than that.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst (via RealGM) said on his Hoop Collective podcast in February that Gobert and Mitchell were "under each other's skin."

The situation has reached a point where the number of times Mitchell is feeding Gobert inside is part of the conversation. According to NBA.com, Mitchell is averaging 2.3 passes per game to the Frenchman, his sixth-most frequent collaboration.

By contrast, Kyle Lowry is finding his Miami Heat teammate Bam Adebayo 11.9 times per game, per NBA.com. It's a somewhat similar story with Trae Young and Clint Capela (6.6 passes) on the Atlanta Hawks, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen (6.9 passes) and the pairing of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton (6.9 passes) on the Suns.

Like Gobert, Mitchell basically said this is all much ado about nothing:

Andy Larsen @andyblarsen

Donovan Mitchell's full response at shootaround this morning when he was asked about the number of times he passes to Rudy Gobert per game: <a href="https://t.co/OTez0jURfz">pic.twitter.com/OTez0jURfz</a>

When the Jazz are first in offensive rating (116.4), per NBA.com, it's tough to argue too much with the results.

But Utah's overall decline doesn't bode well when there were already longstanding questions over whether the roster is built for the playoffs—the Jazz haven't advanced past the conference semifinals under Snyder.

Should this season end with another quick exit, the chatter around Mitchell and Gobert is bound to hit a fever pitch.