Donovan Mitchell: Rumor Rudy Gobert Relationship Was 'Unsalvageable' Helped Jazz

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) and Rudy Gobert (27) walk on the court in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

It turns out the public skepticism Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell faced about repairing their relationship was a turning point between the two Utah Jazz stars.

Mitchell told Tony Jones of The Athletic that a previous article from the same outlet, which described their relationship as "unsalvageable," ultimately helped bring him and Gobert back together.  

"In a strange way, I think that article helped," Mitchell said. "It brought out a level of determination in both of us that we never had. I never had a controversy like that. Here we were, the two pillars of the team, and we had to go to the playoffs in two months. It brought out a different level of tenacity in both of us."

Mitchell and Gobert's relationship frayed in the aftermath of both stars testing positive for COVID-19 in March last year. Gobert was the first player in the NBA to have a confirmed coronavirus infection. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Jazz players felt Gobert had been "careless" in the early days of the pandemic. He infamously joked about the virus and rubbed his hands all over mics and recording devices in a press conference with reporters just days before testing positive. 

"We had a very honest conversation, and that's all I needed," Gobert told Sam Amick of The Athletic. "You know, after that, once I knew that I told him everything that was on my mind and I heard everything that was on his mind, I knew that we could move forward. I'm not going to disclose all that, but I knew that once we (had that conversation) we could move forward."

The Jazz raced out to an NBA-best 27-9 record in the first half and carry a 2.5-game lead over the Phoenix Suns for the top spot in the Western Conference. Gobert, Mitchell and Mike Conley each earned All-Star selections, with Utah joining the Brooklyn Nets as the only teams with three players on the respective rosters.

There seem to have been no lingering tensions between Gobert and Mitchell, who each continue to play their respective roles at a high level. 

"We have a competitive energy in common and that helped us," Mitchell said. "Our mindset was like, 'Forget y'all. You guys don't think we can do this.' Anytime we hear what we can't do, we want to go out and prove that wrong."

Utah's next step will be taking a leap in the postseason, where Gobert and Mitchell have struggled to thrive in recent seasons. The Jazz have not gotten past the second round with those two leading the charge and have been eliminated in the first round each of the last two postseasons.