The Utah Jazz are in the clear from Covid-19 for now, with both of its previously infected superstars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, testing negative for the virus on March 27. But the team’s two best players still aren’t on the same page.
There’s animosity between Gobert, the NBA’s “patient zero,” and Mitchell, who tested positive within hours of his teammate despite showing no symptoms of the virus. Despite efforts from the team to mend the relationship between its two best players, Mitchell has been hesitant to forgive Gobert, according to The Athletic. “It doesn’t appear salvageable,” is what one source said.
Gobert infamously toyed with the NBA’s initial Covid-19 prevention protocols, touching the mics of NBA media who were mandated to stand six feet from players. Gobert was careless, it appears, and it could break up a competitive Jazz team.
What happened, and what can change?
Rudy Gobert didn’t take Covid-19 seriously
The Jazz were the first major professional team in American sports to register a positive Covid-19 test on March 11, causing the NBA, and other sports leagues, to shut down. This came despite Jazz head coach Quinn Snyder’s attempts at mitigation and lecturing.
Per The Athletic, Snyder, who’s from Washington state, one of the nation’s first Covid-19 hotspots, shared his fears of the virus with the team in early March. He instructed trainer Eric Waters to put a formal meeting together. There was a PowerPoint and pamphlets handed out. Purell hand sanitizers were in everyone’s locker before road games, wipes were used to sanitize phones, and players were told to not sign autographs. On March 9, the team even met with a University of Utah doctor.
Yet on the day the team met with a doctor, Gobert touched media microphones in a goof-gone-wrong. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that “Jazz players privately said that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings.” It’s no secret that Gobert ignored several warning signs. That’s why Mitchell is so mad.
Of course, maybe it was Mitchell who infected Gobert, or maybe they were both infected separately. We’ll never know. But it’s clear one of the two wasn’t taking the virus seriously, though.
On March 12, Gobert apologized on Instagram:
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I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of concern and support over the last 24 hours. I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis…mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment. The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus . I am under great care and will fully recover. Thank you again for all your support. I encourage everyone to take all of the steps to stay safe and healthy. Love.
What’s going on between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell?
Mitchell hasn’t addressed anything publicly since March 16, in an appearance with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, where he sort of dodged the question on whether he’d spoken to Gobert.
“To be honest with you, Robin, it took a while to cool off. I read what he said and heard what he said. I’m glad he’s doing OK. I’m glad I’m doing well. I’m just really happy to be honest, Robin, that I hate to say that it’s two of us, but at least it wasn’t the whole party. At the end of the day, neither him or I have children at home. I know I have teammates and staff that have children at home. I’m glad we were able to contain it as much as possible.”
EXCLUSIVE: “I think that’s the scariest part about this virus is that you may seem fine.” @NBA star @spidadmitchell speaks out for the first time from isolation since being diagnosed with COVID-19, despite being “asymptomatic.” https://t.co/i9rZzYvW4s pic.twitter.com/wZJBteQjtV— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 16, 2020
According to The Athletic, “The Jazz have already begun working on the Mitchell-Gobert relationship, but Mitchell remains reluctant to fix what might have been broken.”
What about the rest of the team?
In The Athletic’s story, Jazz teammate Joe Ingles said, “I’m confident our team is going to be totally fine. I heard Donovan’s response (on GMA), or whatever it was, to that question, and a part of that is on Donovan and Rudy to sort out if he’s frustrated with him or whatever. But I have no doubt when we go back to training, or when our season starts again, our team is going to be what we have been and what we are. … I’m confident our team will be completely fine. The chemistry will be fine.”
On Friday, Ingles used a Twitter comment about the team’s feud with Gobert to make a joke about Gobert’s chef:
Pissed I can’t go to his house for a free meal right now! He got a great chef! https://t.co/CLSYqeeKcH— Joe Ingles (@Joeingles7) April 10, 2020
Will Gobert and Mitchell really feud long enough for one of them to get traded?
There’s a lot of time between now and the hopeful return of the 2019-20 season. There’s even longer if this season is canceled. In time, this can be fixed. The future of the Jazz may depend on it, as the franchise is on the road to becoming a championship contender with Mitchell and Gobert together.
Utah will have to be careful, though. Mitchell and Gobert could both be owed maximum money in 2021. For now, NBA transactions are on hold anyway, so there’s nothing the Jazz can do but try and patch the duo’s friendship.
That might not be an easy task, but it’s one that will catch the league’s attention once the planet returns to a state closer to normalcy.