SALT LAKE CITY — This time for sure?
A strange 24 hours for the Utah Jazz — which featured Donovan Mitchell declaring he was playing, the Jazz medical staff ruling him out, the team losing Game 1 to the Memphis Grizzlies, and some post-game cryptic social media posts — ended with the resolution the star guard had hoped for all along.
The team announced Monday Mitchell would play in Wednesday's Game 2.
So did Mitchell's sprained ankle suddenly completely heal overnight? Unlikely.
The much more plausible scenario is Mitchell — who admitted that he was less-than-pleased with the late scratch from Game 1 — was able to convince the organization that he was playing. And, frankly, that was that.
"I mean obviously it's no secret what happened," Mitchell said. "I was definitely frustrated and upset that I wasn't able to play. I'm a competitor. I felt I was ready to go. I felt ready to go. And unfortunately that wasn't the case."
Mitchell admitted to being shocked by the news. Sunday morning he had told reporters he was "excited" and "ready" to play again. It had been a long rehab process — one which he felt took too long — and he was eager to return to the court. The team's medical staff, though, met on Sunday afternoon and ruled he wasn't ready to play. There hadn't been any setbacks with the ankle, but they weren't comfortable with him returning to action.
"The biggest thing for me was I just felt like I should have played, that's what I mean, to be honest with you," Mitchell said. "It's no secret, we all know that. At the end of the day, the experts said, 'No.' We can disagree on those things but that was the frustration."
That frustration, however, stems from more than just Sunday's actions. Mitchell confirmed Monday that after the initial recovery process was slow, he began to work with his personal training staff on his rehabilitation. On Thursday, he casually mentioned that: "I feel like it's kind of been progressing well for like the past two weeks, I want to say. … I feel like that's when things started to go in the right way and projecting well."
Mitchell called it a "collaborative effort" between his trainers and the team's staff, and mentioned that the dynamic wasn't all that unique.
"It's no secret guys have used their own people for sure. We're working in conjunction with the team. It's not like a picking sides type of deal," Mitchell said.
But it's not hard to think back to the Kawhi Leonard situation in San Antonio that eventually led to Leonard being traded to Toronto. The Spurs medical staff felt Leonard was ready to play; Leonard's personal trainers didn't. Mitchell's situation appears to be the opposite of that situation, but any of those disagreements can cause tension.
To make sure everything was clear between Mitchell and his teammates, Mitchell held a quick player's-only meeting to make sure they knew he was in their corner.
"I talked to just my teammates and said, 'Look, we're in here together' — I don't know if I should have shared that, but that's what it is: 'We're in here together.'" Mitchell said.
Mitchell stated there were no such meetings with management or the team training staff, which was named the 2019-20 training staff of the year last season.
"They cleared me, and that was it. There was no big discussion. There's no time for that — it's the playoffs," Mitchell said. "I wanted to talk with the guys I go to bat with."
With Mitchell now cleared, the hope among the team is that any lingering strange feelings will be gone with a better performance in Game 2. Winning can have that effect. And with Mitchell's ankle saga wrapped up — at least for now — the focus can return to the action on the court.
"Your favorite animal is a goldfish, it has a memory of 10 seconds," Quin Snyder said, echoing "Ted Lasso." "And that's where we need to be; we need to be moving forward and thinking about Game 2."
But after what happened on Sunday, is there a chance of another reversal of course? When questioned about that, Mitchell smirked and gave a definite answer: "No."