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Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell: How COVID-19 Infected an Already Strained Relationship in Utah

If Jazz were having a good time, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell would be the modern take on Karl Malone and John Stockton, a great man and guard who worked together on and off the field to make the Utah franchise a success.

Still, the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell feels more like that of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Lakers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The bad news for Utah is that the comparison is made because Gobert and Mitchell aren’t exactly the best to be friends. Shaq and Kobe helped Los Angeles win at least three NBA championships after Malone and Stockton didn’t win one.

Talent level and superstars aside, there’s one more important difference between the current Gobert-Mitchell pairing and yesterday’s Shaq-Kobe duo: O’Neal never pissed Bryant by recklessly exposing him to an infectious disease during a global pandemic .

MORE: Everything You Need To Know About The NBA Bubble

The tense relationship between the Jazz’s top two players is far from a secret, so Mitchell who missed Gobert for a month after the guard may have contracted the corona virus from the center wasn’t too surprising. But as Utah prepares to resume its season in the NBA bubble, both players seem to be at peace with the tension that exists between them.

“It will never be perfect,” said 28-year-old Gobert recently about his relationship with 23-year-old Mitchell. “Sometimes we will be very happy, and sometimes we will be frustrated with each other. But as long as we, as men, respect each other and keep things between him and me and approach it as men, we’ll be fine. ‘

Gobert supplied that quotation as part of a long ESPN article that dives deep into his relationship with Mitchell, who turned down interview requests for the story. For his part, Mitchell told reporters in early July that he and Gobert were “good” and “ready to hoops” despite an ugly period while the NBA was on its hiatus.

Rudy Gobert

Long story short: Gobert and Mitchell, who have only been paired for two plus seasons as teammates, are still working on their momentum as co-stars in Utah. Gobert is the more regular player who sees himself as the demanding team leader and an underrated center in the NBA. Mitchell is the flashy young guard who leads the team in points per game, but, as Gobert has publicly pointed out, is not exactly known for his passing.

But Utah has made the playoffs in both seasons since Mitchell arrived, with Gobert winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year each season and both players earning their first All All Star career in 2020. At least on the field, the clutch seems to work, and the Jazz by all accounts plan to keep both Mitchell and Gobert in place while the team builds around them.

That is, Utah better hopes that the 2020 COVID-19 incident has not really “ saved ” the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell as it has been described.

Below is a short timeline that details what happened between the top Jazz players while the NBA season was suspended due to Gobert’s positive test in March.

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell: the COVID-19 timeline

9th of March: Gobert, after discussing the Jazz’s new COVID-19 protocols at a media conference, jokingly touches every microphone and recorder in front of him before he leaves, seemingly mocking the threat of the virus.

11 March: Shortly after Jazz and the Thunder’s tip in Oklahoma City, the NBA announces that it has suspended the 2019-20 season after Gobert tests positive for COVID-19. The Thunder television crew had reported concerns about the health of Gobert and teammate Emmanuel Mudiay, but especially Gobert. Both players were classified as questionable due to illness. Gobert was reportedly ready to play if he had not tested positive for COVID-19.

12 March: ESPN reports Mitchell also tested positive for the coronavirus, and that “Jazz players say privately that Gobert had been sloppy in the locker room to touch other players and their belongings.” Mitchell is the only other player or staff member in Utah to test positive for the virus.

12 March: Gobert apologizes for his “careless” behavior and says he has felt “fear, fear, and shame” since learning his diagnosis.

12 March: Gobert, whose fear that Mitchell is angry with him, is confirmed by ESPN’s report, tries to contact Mitchell after learning the latter had tested positive. But Mitchell is not responding to calls, text messages or direct messages on Instagram.

March 16: Mitchell during an interview on “Good Morning America” asked if he spoke to Gobert since both have been tested positive. Without answering the question, he replies, “To be honest, it took me a little while to cool down. I read what he said and heard what he said. I am happy that he is doing well, I am happy I am doing well. “

27 March: Gobert, Mitchell and the rest of the Jazz team and staff are medically examined by government officials after observing a two-week period of self-isolation. The team announces that the Utah Department of Health has determined that players and staff no longer “pose a risk of infection to others.” However, the NBA season remains suspended.

April 10: In a report by The Athletic, a source says the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell “does not seem to save, “adding” Mitchell remains reluctant to fix what may have been broken. “

Mid-April (date unclear): Gobert and Mitchell finally speak about a month after the suspension of the NBA season. “We told each other what to say to each other,” Gobert later said of the lecture. “We are both on the same page. We both want to win. We both think we have a great opportunity and we know we need each other. We talked a lot, but the most important thing was that we were on the same page and the fact that our team needs us. We can win together. That’s the most important thing. “

12 April: Gobert admits in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks “it is true that (he and Mitchell) have not spoken for a while” but had spoken for the past few days. “We are ready to win a championship,” says Gobert. “It is far from perfect, but in the end we both want the same thing. We are grown men and we will both do what it takes to win. ”

5th of May: Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey claims that Gobert and Mitchell have made the necessary repairs to their relationship: “At the most basic level, they know they need each other to achieve the goals we want to achieve, to be the last team to in the NBA. “

Donovan Mitchell

July 2nd: For the first time since the GMA interview in March, Mitchell comments on Gobert’s situation during a conference call with reporters. He claims the two went further, but also confirms that the tension between the two was real. “We’re good at the moment,” he says. “We’re going out to hop. I think the biggest thing that sucked it out was taking the guys off the team away from what the guys on the team were trying to do. … Rudy and I had COVID and what was also happened, happened, but now we’re ready to get in the ring. “

Mitchell is also asked why it took him so long to publicly address what everyone recognized as a break with Gobert, specifically about The Athletic’s report describing their relationship as irreparable. “We know what it is internally as a team, and it should be,” said Mitchell. “That’s part of that maturity and growing up. I could have easily been going back and forth with anyone on Twitter and tackled it a bit, but I’m like, you know what, there’s no need for that.

“My teammates and my coaches know how I feel, and I feel that it was over. That’s it, and I’ll leave it at that. ”

July 26: The chemistry on the field between Mitchell and Gobert reappears on track during a scrimmage with the heat in the NBA bubble. “People didn’t have much to talk about for four months,” Gobert says when asked if the conflict with Mitchell was exaggerated. “Now that we’re playing again, I think it’s time to drop it. I get asked about it every day. I can understand. But I hope there are some more interesting topics now. ‘

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