Rudy Gobert Says He and Donovan Mitchell 'Can Win Together' on Jazz

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 06: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz and Rudy Gobert #27 talk against the New Orleans Pelicans during a game at the Smoothie King Center on January 06, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Rudy Gobert cleared the air with teammate Donovan Mitchell before participating in the Utah Jazz's virtual meetings and workouts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Athletic's Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Tony Jones spoke to a source in April who said the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell "doesn't appear salvageable" after they both tested positive for COVID-19. 

The piece laid out how some inside the Jazz had been frustrated with what they believed to be Gobert's less than serious attitude about the ongoing pandemic.

ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported Tuesday the French big man reached out to Mitchell to iron out their differences:

"We told each other what we had to say to each other. We are both on the same page. We both want to win. We both think that we have a great opportunity, and we know that we need each other. We talked about a lot of things, but the main thing was that we are on the same page and the fact that our team needs us. We can win together. That's the most important thing."

MacMahon said Mitchell declined to comment for the story, but the 2020 All-Star guard addressed the situation during a conference call with reporters last week. He said he and Gobert are "good" and "ready to hoop."

The Athletic piece noted it was unclear whether Mitchell or Gobert was the first Jazz player to contract COVID-19, but public opinion had turned firmly against the latter. He had received significant criticism for one moment in which he purposefully touched all of the microphones and recording devices during a press conference in March.

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Mitchell also said in a March interview with Good Morning America that it "took a while for me to kind of cool off," alluding to his frustration with Gobert.

Leaving aside the off-court drama, the Jazz will soon face a difficult decision about the direction of the franchise. Mitchell and Gobert are both eligible for free agency in 2021.

Mitchell will be a restricted free agent, and he'll presumably command a max contract or something close to it. He has led Utah in scoring in each of his first three seasons, and replacing him with a player of similar value would be next to impossible since the Jazz aren't a marquee free-agent destination.

Gobert, on the other hand, is a tougher piece to evaluate. He's an excellent rim protector and rebounder, averaging 13.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks through 62 games in 2019-20.

Traditional centers have fallen out of vogue in the NBA, though, and Gobert hasn't expanded his offensive game to the perimeter like some other centers. He has attempted three three-pointers over his NBA career.

Paying top dollar for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year may not be the best use of Utah's financial assets.

Even before the friction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term viability of Mitchell and Gobert's partnership was a major question hanging over the Jazz.