Since the Athletic article from Tony Jones came out with the quotes about Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert unable to reconcile, it has been a constant stream of frustration and confusion for Jazz fans.
Fair or not everyone is asking who is at fault?
Is it Rudy Gobert wanting more touches, to continue his reign as DOPY and get his supermax?
Is it Donovan Mitchell trying to make this his team once and for all and get the touches and offensive priority that wants?
The fact is it’s both of them. We don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. This off and on feud has likely been going on for some time which makes some puzzling performances throughout the year make more sense.
Probably the hardest thing for Jazz fans is the feeling like they have to take a side. Will the Jazz make a trade? Will they trade Gobert or Mitchell? It’s hard to feel like a some sort of move inevitable.
But maybe there’s some hope. Surely, this is the worst it will ever be? How could it not be? There’s just no precedent for this type of situation before. Sure, there have been feuds between stars in the past. Shaq and Kobe come to mind. But Shag and Kobe’s feud was never escalated by a global pandemic.
If you want the easy answer for this, it’s to make a trade. Whether it’s Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell the Jazz would find a partner for either player. But the outcome of a trade will almost assuredly mean the Jazz will be a worse team. Rarely do the teams trading a star end up better off or winning a title. Especially when other teams know a player has to be moved.
The harder answer is to find a way to figure it out. Thinking about this reminded me of this scene from Rocky Balboa.
Right now, Mitchell and Gobert both want to win. But somewhere along the way it changed from winning as a team to winning their own way. Mitchell wanting to win with more offensive touches in a system that enhances his strengths. Gobert wants the defensive identity and scoring points efficiently on offensive with easy pick and roll buckets.
They’re both letting those outside voices control them.
If Mitchell and Gobert want to get back to finding harmony as a team and going deep into the playoffs, something everyone predicted before this season began, then they’ll need to show sacrifice and strength like every other contender has had to do.
It’s a hard thing to know your right about something and concede at the same time. It’s hard to not get as much credit as you feel you deserve. But that’s what leadership is. It’s taking pride in collective success.
This situation is not unfixable. It’s actually very easily fixed. But that will take a growth that isn’t done on the court but in the locker room. The Jazz don’t need Donovan Mitchell to improve his playmaking right now, they need him to grow as a leader. The Jazz don’t need Gobert to improve his shotmaking but learn more sacrifice.
And this is all easier said than done. There are factors beyond a simple relationship between players. Gobert has a supermax on the line. Mitchell needs his numbers to continue selling shoes and getting endorsements.
Whatever happens, we will learn how much actual winning matters to these players in the next six months.