The Rudy Gobert-Donovan Mitchell rift, explained
The hovering rift between Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and franchise star Donovan Mitchell has been a key topic of discussion during this long layoff. Their issues stem from well before the coronavirus pandemic hit, as a high-ranking executive described their relationship as a “2 out of 10” in the NBA drama scale.
Gobert, who was the franchise player prior to the Jazz drafting Mitchell in 2017, often chided the young guard for not getting him the ball. These little nagging barks at times went well outside the practice floor or the locker room, trickling into games.
Following a Jan. 14, 2019, home win over the Detroit Pistons, Gobert was being interviewed and saw a joyous Mitchell celebrating, only to turn around and throw a quick jab his way:
“Hey, pass the ball, god damn it!,” the French center told Mitchell, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Those little nudges came from Gobert often, something those around him noticed. But that particular moment made many in the front office uncomfortable.
Gobert has been the recipient of many passes throughout his young career. Mitchell, a younger player, is at times ball-dominant and can get a little tunnel vision when engaged.
The Frenchman is honest but also constant in his demands.
“If you take a paper towel and just drip water on it, the paper towel is going to get moist and then it’s going to get damp and eventually it’s going to break,” a Jazz source said. “Rudy has to pick his spots, and Donovan can’t react to everything. Sometimes you have to play chess and appease your teammates.
“It’s not about being right all the time. Sometimes it’s like, ‘It happened and let’s move on.’ Is it about you trying to prove your point to one another or us trying to win?”
Gobert knows he’s chided his teammates, especially Mitchell, on a constant basis:
“I understand that I’m annoying. I can be very annoying,” said Gobert, acknowledging he knows Mitchell’s job is as tough as they come as the focal point of the Jazz offense. “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%. 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.”
Mitchell has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism from Gobert, annoyances that were deemed a “2 out of 10” between the two stars. Yet add the infantile reaction to a worldwide pandemic and that scale has risen since, as the two have only spoken when necessary throughout this long hiatus.