As the NBA prepares for a hopeful restart to the season in Orlando one of the main basketball questions for this season and beyond is whether the relationship between Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert is tenable. While there have been grumblings the two haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, the tensions between them came to a head when Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19 after Gobert’s test that resulted in the NBA shutting down.
Gobert issued a public apology for his “careless” behavior, but Mitchell was still fuming and it took a full month for the two to speak again. That issue only widened the rift between the two, and immediately launched speculation that the Jazz may have to choose between their two foundational players. That question still lingers and, whether the cause or not, any struggles the Jazz have during the restart and playoffs will surely lead to only more discussion about the Mitchell-Gobert relationship.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon recently spoke with Gobert about his relationship with Mitchell, who was very open about the frustrations they can have with each other on the court and was introspective about the role he plays in creating those frustrations. It’s a fascinating look at their relationship, as both have cited past successful partnerships between stars that were anything but friends, and Gobert and the Jazz front office state they believe the two can work together on the court towards the goal of winning a championship.
When the topic of Gobert’s prodding at Mitchell about not passing enough was broached, Gobert noted that he needs to be better about picking his spots as to when he should be demanding of the young guard and that, in his words, is “the a**hole.”
“I understand that I’m annoying. I can be very annoying,” said Gobert, adding that he knows Mitchell’s job is difficult as the focal point of defenses. “I think maybe because he was really good really early, I’ve been very demanding and maybe in not always a positive way. Sometimes you don’t realize it.
“Like with me, people can be hard on me and I can handle it, but for some guys, it can become very frustrating. I can understand that 100 percent. Donovan has gotten better every year since he’s gotten here. I think he’s going to keep getting a lot better. It’s pretty much, I’m the a–hole.”
Gobert goes on to note that he believes the two are in a good enough place after having talked through things and can work together, provided they’re willing to have those conversations out in the open. The Jazz have stated publicly that they still see the two as their foundational pieces, but with both headed for massive extensions, how this restart unfolds between the two of them may dictate whether they hold strong to that belief.