SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been nearly four months since Donovan Mitchell last played a game. That doesn’t mean it’s been a quiet time for the Utah Jazz All-Star guard.
“I make the joke, it's been a long few months for me,” Mitchell said.
But it’s not really a joke.
Since the NBA stopped, Mitchell has tested positive for the COVID-19, he’s called out some of his so-called fans for negative and racist comments, and been the subject of rumors due to tension between him and Rudy Gobert.
So it wasn’t a very peaceful quarantine for Mitchell, but on Thursday, in his first media availability since the season was suspended, the star guard said things between him and Gobert were fine.
“Right now, we're good,” Mitchell said. “We're going out there ready to hoop. ... The primary focus is just us jelling as a team because, obviously, Rudy and I had COVID and whatever happened, happened, but now we're ready to hoop and focus on the team as a whole because we're not really trying to keep taking attention away from what everybody's got going on.”
Mitchell confirmed that he and Gobert weren’t on the best of terms after both players tested positive for the virus, saying it was “no secret” he was upset with Gobert's lackadaisical approach to the threat. Gobert infamously touched reporters mics and recorders following a press conference two days before testing positive.
Mitchell's annoyance with the situation led to weeks of silence between the two players with the guard only commenting vaguely on the matter to "Good Morning America" and in an Instagram Live video. Following a story in The Athletic that had a quote claiming the pair’s relationship was “unsalvageable,” Mitchell opted not to address the matter anymore.
“For me, it was like, I'm not gonna continue addressing something that I didn't feel was true,” Mitchell said. “To be honest with you and no disrespect to you guys, but I'm not trying to give things clicks just to have a story. We know what it is internally as a team and that should be it.”
The Jazz’s stance on the issue has been consistent with general manager Dennis Lindsey telling the media in May the two were ready to move forward and play.
But the tension, Mitchell admitted, extended beyond just positive tests.
By March, it was clear the Jazz weren’t playing up to preseason expectations. It had been an uneven season with many peaks and valleys and that led to some minor bickering between the two players. That was seen on the court with Gobert at times being visibly upset when his teammates, and Mitchell specifically, didn't find him when he rolled to the rim.
“You look at all duos,” Mitchell said, “there's going to be tension, there's going to be back and forth. … That’s always going to happen. It happens on every team. It doesn't matter if they win championships or they’re the last-place team, it’s always going to happen. So I feel like even in a work environment, you're not gonna always get along, or go out to eat, or you know hang out with your teammates. So that's that.”
Mitchell said any on-the-court issues didn’t have an impact on how he felt about Gobert after testing positive.
“I consider the two separate things — one is basketball, one is a working relationship and the other one is life,” Mitchell said. "I consider that separate. So I don't think they really had any carryover.”