For most of Game 1, the Jazz played without passion or energy. They allowed Memphis to walk into Vivint Smart Home Arena and steal the series opener, 112-109. On Sunday night, Mitchell continued to post cryptic messages on Twitter and IG. Then came Monday morning, when an ESPN report about Mitchell’s frustrations only added to the intrigue. Heading into Wednesday night’s Game 2, what went on behind the scenes has come more into focus. Even if there is ambiguity elsewhere. Mitchell, as some stars around the league are known to do, has his own team of trainers who work in conjunction with the Jazz medical staff. According to sources, Mitchell’s team cleared him to play and gave him the go-ahead. Utah’s staff wanted him to sit out another game. The disconnect, quite clearly, did not sit well with Mitchell.
When it comes to how this went down, though, that distinction at the end of Mitchell’s comment is vital. Not only had Mitchell’s team indicated internally that he was healthy enough to play, but sources say he had been expecting to make his return from the ankle injury late in the regular season and was already frustrated with the unexpected delay. But the Jazz, who have the final say in whether a player is ready to play, didn’t agree that he should play and made the determination for a number of reasons.
According to a source with knowledge of the organization’s thinking, the top priority was Mitchell’s health and safety. The ankle sprain that Mitchell suffered in a game against Indiana on April 16 was clearly serious, and the notion of bringing him back when he was anything less than 100 percent caused concern on two fronts.
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell on moving forward from the last 24 hours of drama with the Jazz locker room. "I want it to be known that we're moving forward as a group as a unit, because we got stuff to handle and as a group and team." #takenote | @kslsports
David Locke: Donovan Mitchell "The biggest thing for me was I felt like I should have played. It is no secret. We all know that. The frustration was it was unfair to my team. It eats me up. I barely slept it. That is where it hurt."
Eric Walden: I asked Quin if there was any kind of meeting between Donovan and the Jazz organization to dissect the communication breakdown pre-Game 1, he said the team always gets together post-game, but that Donovan would be motivated to get past "this controversy, if you can call it that."
Ben Anderson: When asked about who oversees Donovan Mitchell's health, Quin Snyder had to say this: "There's a collaboration in that regard." @KSLsports | #TakeNote
Michael C. Wright: Quin Snyder: “Donovan always wants to be on the floor. He’s competitive. As you know, Donovan will be back [for Game 2].”
Andy Larsen: That confirms what I'm hearing as well: that this is kind of a power struggle between Mitchell's training staff and Jazz training staff over who gets to make the decisions on Mitchell's recovery and availability.
Andy Larsen: And a key Mitchell quote from Thurs: "I feel like it's kind of been progressing well for like the past two weeks, I want to say. I mean, you're gonna quote me on that, but I could be wrong. But I feel like that's when things started to go in the right way and projecting well."
Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell was incensed at the late decision to scratch him from Sunday's playoff opener and it deepened tensions with the team regarding his recovery from a right ankle sprain, sources told ESPN.
Mitchell has been out since April 16, longer than was initially expected. After he progressed slowly in the early stages of recovery, Mitchell began to work with his personal training staff on the rehabilitation, sources said. There is hope that more rehab and testing can lead to Mitchell being cleared to play in Wednesday's Game 2, sources said, as the top-seeded Jazz look to even the series with the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies
But in addition to managing the injury, some easing of frustrations may have to take place behind the scenes. That could include new part-owner Dwyane Wade, sources said. Wade has a good relationship with Mitchell and is with the team this week in Salt Lake City. "Sorry y'all... I wish I could say more.... I'll be out there soon!" Mitchell tweeted after the Jazz's 112-109 Game 1 loss.
Mitchell’s teammates noted after the game that they were confused by the decision for him not to play. “It was a big surprise. I just don’t know … I try to stay out of all this because it’s just going to give me a headache,” Rudy Gobert said after the Jazz’s 112-109 loss to the Grizzlies. “… When you wake up [from a nap], you get ready for a game, and you find out that your star player is not going to play, it throws you off a little bit.”
Most importantly, the Jazz for a large portion of Sunday night backed down to Memphis. They didn’t match the physicality. They didn’t play through the trash talk. That likely doesn’t happen if Mitchell, who gives as good as he gets, plays. The Grizzlies were able to turn Sunday night into a street fight, where every inch was up for grabs. Mitchell thrives on that kind of game, and with him in the lineup, it seems unlikely that the Grizzlies would have built a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. “It was definitely a game-changer for us, when a guy of his caliber is not able to play,” Conley said. “It was tough on our team, expecting a guy like that back. We’ve played this season with guys in and out of the lineup all year. So at the end of the day, the loss is no excuse.”
Eric Walden: Bojan Bogdanovic, on Donovan Mitchell: "Of course we missed him, especially in the playoffs. I don’t know what happened, honestly, with the medical staff and him, to hold him out. You should ask him."
Tony Jones: Rudy Gobert said he found out Donovan Mitchell was out when he woke up from his afternoon nap: "Hopefully he's ready for next game," Gobert said.
Tim MacMahon: Quin Snyder says Jazz medical staff met with Donovan Mitchell after shootaround and decided to hold him out of Game 1. He acknowledged that Mitchell, who declared himself “ready to go” when he talked to media post-shootaround, isn’t pleased with the decision.
Drew Hill: Quin Snyder gets asked if Donovan Mitchell has missed parts of practice. He said yes, but he wasn’t the only guy. They held out different guys from different parts to keep them fresh. He also acknowledged that he wanted to play. Didn’t directly comment on whether he was upset.
Ben Anderson: Official, Donovan Mitchell will not play for the @Utah Jazz tonight due to his right ankle sprain.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell isn’t expected to play vs. Memphis in Game 1 tonight, sources tell ESPN. Mitchell has been working toward his return from a sprained right ankle.
Eric Walden: Donovan Mitchell: "I feel good. Always gonna be soreness. I feel good, I’m ready to go tonight. No pain. I’m excited to get going." Declines to say "for game-planning purposes" if he's on a minutes restriction.
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell is not listed on the @Utah Jazz injury report for tomorrow. So he'll be back and ready to play. Ersan Ilyasova is listed as questionable with a non-COVID illness.
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell on whether he thinks he'll be able to play his full minutes. "I haven't had that conversation as far as minutes. I would like to think so." @kslsports | #takenote
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell on his availability for Game 1. "That's the goal, there aren't any setbacks, God forbid, knock on wood, but that's the goal."
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell on his first practice: "Practice was good, I got out there and competed. You can tell it's the first time [...] in four or five weeks."
Eric Walden: Mike Conley, on Donovan Mitchell: "Something that Don’s thinking about, that we’re all thinking about, is him coming back & making sure everything’s laid out for him. … We’re gonna do everything we can during the week to make sure he’s ready to go. He’s gonna be ready as ever."
Eric Walden: Donovan Mitchell has been ruled out of the Utah Jazz’s final 3 regular season games and will not travel with the team for its road trip. He’ll be re-evaluated prior to the playoffs.
Eric Walden: Quin Snyder said that Donovan Mitchell is "coming along and working hard, doing everything he can to get back." Seemed to indicate he was not too worried about Donovan losing his timing, or the chemistry with teammates being rusty.
Eric Walden: Quin added that "you try to see the positives" of the situation, noting that with the play-in tourney, that gives Donovan some wiggle room to get re-acclimated: "There's a little larger window, so you can get some of that in a practice setting."
Eric Walden: Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley remain OUT Friday vs. the Nuggets. Juwan Morgan is also OUT (right heel soreness). But Udoka Azubuike is PROBABLE after missing most of the season with a right ankle sprain.
Ben Anderson: Quin Snyder said he didn't have an update on Donovan Mitchell who was due to get re-evaluated tonight. But, he said he doesn't have an update because he's not an expert on injuries so he doesn't offer updates.
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell remains out for tomorrow against the @Minnesota Timberwolves. The @Utah Jazz said last Saturday they’d reevaluate him in one week.
Eric Walden: Quin, on being without Donovan for at least a week: "It's a challenge for us to play without him, and obviously we want to get him back as soon as possible. … Hopefully we can try to improve in some other ways."
Sarah Todd: Following an MRI and clinical evaluation, Donovan Mitchell suffered a significant right lower ankle sprain. He will be re-evaluated in one week.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lower ankle sprain and there's some early optimism that this isn't a major injury to Mitchell, sources tell ESPN.
J. Michael Falgoust: Better look at that Donovan Mitchell injury. Right ankle #PacersJazz pic.twitter.com/hK6puHSTlC
Ben Anderson: Donovan Mitchell is very clearly hurt and being carried off the floor. Really scary moment here at the arena. Mitchell is moving really slowly, hard to tell exactly what happened. Doesn't seem to be putting weight on his right leg.
Andy Larsen: Quin Snyder on Donovan Mitchell's illness: "If he or we felt like he could be effective, he would play." Pointed out how Mitchell helped on the defensive end Friday, despite not being 100%.
Jason Anderson: Guard @Donovan Mitchell (rib contusion) will not play for the @Utah Jazz in tonight’s game against the @Sacramento Kings.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell suffered a rib contusion and missed the entire second half of Friday's 90-83 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Jazz said Mitchell's status will be updated Saturday. Mitchell suffered the injury and left the game for good with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter with the Jazz trailing 26-20 at the time. Without Mitchell, the Jazz lost their third straight game to the Lakers at Staples Center. "He's our leading scorer and it impacts the game," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "But I don't think our guys -- it's not a crutch or an excuse. I like the fact that our guys kept competing ... other guys got to pick it up."
Ryan McDonald: Former Jazz star Darrell Griffith will be in attendance at tomorrow's game, and the Jazz will wear the purple throwbacks for the first time this season (I haven't heard if Donovan Mitchell will be available. This is just a pretty applicable GIF)
June 1, 2023 | 5:22 am EDT Update
Bob Myers to ESPN now?
ESPN has expressed an interest in hiring Bob Myers, the Golden State Warriors executive who stepped down as president and general manager on Tuesday. The talks are very early on, sources told Front Office Sports. The two-time executive of the year is likely to be barraged by offers from other NBA franchises.
Windhorst: Miami makes a lot of sense if Damian Lillard becomes available
However, if the 32-year-old were to become available, NBA insider Brian Windhorst thinks the Miami Heat would make a lot of sense as a potential landing spot. “It feels strange to me to talk about a team in the Finals, like the Miami Heat, but the Miami Heat make a lot of sense if Dame were to become available,” he said. “They have a number of future first-round picks they can trade. They have a number of interesting young players. It would be a really fascinating opportunity if he were to come to market.”
Michael Malone compared Nikola Jokic to Tim Duncan
“He’s not trying to be something he’s not. He’s not trying to create a narrative other than ‘I’m Nikola Jokic, I play for the Denver Nuggets, I’m gonna do everything I can to help my team win and I’m gonna do it with class, professionalism and I’m never gonna make it about me. That’s the rarity,” Malone said of Jokic. “I often make the comparison, I never coached Tim Duncan, but just from coaching against him and hearing stories about those that have been around him, Tim Duncan was a selfless superstar. I look at Nikola Jokic in the same vein. I think Nikola Jokic is truly selfless superstar, where it’s not about him. He’s not looking for people to ‘Look at me, tell me how great I am’. He’s almost embarrassed by the attention. He’s just wants to be one of the guys in the locker room, have fun, work hard and win.”
Malika Andrews: Why didn’t Jimmy Butler want to hold the Eastern Conference Finals trophy? “I play for Mr. O’Brien… You can take the All-Stars… You can take the All-NBA. All defensive team, don’t care. I really only want to win a championship.” pic.twitter.com/wu6fOERIOW
Clutch Points: “Out of everybody that I’ve guarded, that we’ve guarded in the playoffs, Jimmy could arguably be the most complete player.” Aaron Gordon speaks highly of Jimmy Butler 😮 Thoughts? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/dKoD3mITg6
Clutch Points: “People used to compare me to [Usher] a lot… I look like him!” Paul George says that people used to compare him to Usher when he was younger and then breaks out in song 😂 Thoughts? 🤔 (via @PodcastPShow) pic.twitter.com/0aXkHcygoC
Reporter: “How’s your ankle? You injured it against the Knicks and tweaked it in Game 7. Are you 100% or is that a look that tells me you’re gonna lie right now?” Jimmy Butler: “No, I’m not gonna lie. I’m gonna say that nobody cares. You don’t either. I’m still expected to do my job at a high level.”
The first surgery occurred during his freshman year at Missouri in 2017, in which he played just 53 minutes in three games; the second occurred before the start of his rookie year with the Denver Nuggets in 2018, causing him to miss the entire season. He had barely played basketball for two years. Now he was facing a prolonged absence again. The game he so brilliantly dominated felt like it had been stolen from him, and all he could do was helplessly wonder why. “Why?” he asked, lying on that bed a year and a half ago. “Why is this happening to me again?”