LeBron James defended letting Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell drop to the end of the NBA All-Star Game draft, but Mitchell said the draft order and James' comments aren't affecting him.
"I don't want to be rude but I really don't care," Mitchell said, per Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. "People have been talking s--t about me for a while...we're not doing this to seek the approval of him."
After analyst Charles Barkley commented on the final two players left in the draft, James defended the decision.
"There's no slander to the Utah Jazz," James said. "You guys gotta understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we would never pick those guys in video games. Never."
Durant had the honor of selecting between the two Jazz stars, taking Mitchell for his last spot.
That left Jazz center Rudy Gobert as the last player, so he went to Team LeBron by default. With three players left on the board, James said he needed size on his team and then opted for Pacers big Domantas Sabonis (6'11") over Gobert (7'0").
"I'm not going for this Utah Jazz slander right now," Barkley said. "Come on, man. They got the best record in the NBA, and they two best players are the last two standing. This is slander. This is slander, America."
The Jazz are atop the Western Conference at 27-9, with a 2.5-game lead over the Phoenix Suns and a 3.5-game lead over James and the Los Angeles Lakers. They're well ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers, who are 24-12, for the title of the league's best team after the first half.
Oh, and back on Feb. 24, the Jazz crushed the Lakers, 114-89.
Mitchell is averaging 24.7 points and 5.4 assists for the Jazz, while Gobert, who dropped 21 points in the 2020 All-Star Game, is averaging 14.2 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
This battle will be settled on the court Sunday, and if there's still bad blood afterward, the two teams meet again for a pair of games in April. And the way things are looking, it could all come down to a postseason matchup this summer.