SALT LAKE CITY — Last year Donovan Mitchell opened a letter from his mother that read: "If you are reading this, you're an All-Star."
Rudy Gobert, meanwhile, at long last got to make the phone call to his mother to celebrate his first All-Star bid.
Last season it was new; it was thrilling. This time around it was an old hat and expected.
Mitchell and Gobert were both named to their second consecutive NBA All-Star game on Tuesday after leading the Jazz to a league-best 25-6 record. Mike Conley did not make the team.
Mitchell is averaging a career-best 24.5 points on 39% 3-point shooting and is also dishing out a career-high average of 5.2 assists per game.
Gobert is leading the league in plus/minus while averaging 13.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He's not only the heavy favorite to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award, but he's also the reason the Utah offense is a top-five unit in the league. Everything is centered around Gobert.
But while both see it as an accomplishment to be selected again, they understand this is a team honor.
"It's really a reward of what we've been doing as a team," Gobert said. "When I look at All-Star (selections) and Defensive Player of the Year, all the individual stuff is not possible without the team and what we do as a group."
The two might be the faces of the franchise, but Utah isn't sitting at the top of the standings without Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Clarkson made the case earlier this month that as many as four players could be taken from the Jazz — and he wasn't including himself, the league's best bench player this season.
Rudy Gobert has earned a $1M bonus for his selection as an All-Star reserve. The Jazz will not see an additional tax charge this season since the bonus was deemed likely.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 24, 2021
"I think the biggest thing that just equates to our team success," Mitchell said, "I don't think it's something we come into the season looking at. I think for him (Gobert) and I, especially, just kind of go out there and do anything whatever it takes to win."
And those wins are much more important to them than the individual awards.
"For him (Gobert), you look at how he played (against Charlotte on Monday), not necessarily having a big game offensively but, you know, he did a lot defensively. That's what he does; that's his staple," Mitchell said. "For me, just continue to make plays, and that's what I've been trying to do all year. If it happens, we're thankful and honored. But the end goal is still the end goal, for us and the team."
That end goal: winning a title. That gets accomplished in July, not in February. So there's still a long way to go.
Still, there was hope that a third Jazz man would join Mitchell and Gobert in Atlanta on March 7.
Conley is averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists per game as he runs the show for the league-leading Jazz. He was Utah's most steady player in the early part of the season and is second only to Gobert in plus/minus. But in a stacked Western Conference, that wasn't quite enough to get in — much to the chagrin of his teammates.
Mitchell said on Monday that he was "praying" Conley would get in and that "he deserves this."
But not all hope is lost. Lakers center Anthony Davis, who was selected as a reserve, will miss the game due to injury. That could open up a spot for the league office to celebrate not only Conley's season but his career. He is widely seen as one of the best players to never make an All-Star Game.
"For a guy like him who's done so many things in his career on and off the floor, he deserves this," Mitchell said. "He's a guy that puts the work in time and time again, has put the time and effort in, and I think that's going to pay off."
West All-Star Reserves
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
Rudy Gobert, Utah
Damian Lillard, Portland
Donovan Mitchell, Utah
Chris Paul, Phoenix
Zion Williamson, New Orleans
East All-Star Reserves
Jaylen Brown, Boston
James Harden, Brooklyn
Zach LaVine, Chicago
Julius Randle, New York
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
Jayson Tatum, Boston
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando