A lot of people had the Jazz as their dark horse candidate in the Western Conference. A strong core of young players that were expected to develop, Mike Conley to ensure 48 good PG minutes between him and Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanović to provide scoring. The Jazz went all-in on this season, and it wasn’t working.
All season long, something was off. Joe Ingles had start from the bench to make room for Conley, who didn’t play as expected. When Conley got injured, Ingles got back into the starting rotation and the team started playing better. But Ingles and Conley weren’t the primary concern. Like any other team, the Jazz needs their top guys to perform at their best to win, and Rudy Gobert wasn’t at his best.
Something was off with the DPOY, and his style of play doesn’t tolerate a 5% drop in quickness and reaction time. For Gobert to be dominant, he needs to operate at a peak level. The team had enough to figure out before Gober tested positive for COVID-19, and became NBA’s Patient Zero.
We don’t know if Gobert actually was Patient Zero. Scientists are still trying to figure out how long are you contagious before presenting symptoms and how the virus spreads. But Gobert had the misfortune of being irresponsible and had a viral moment messing around with microphones in front of cameras. He wasn’t the only one who took the virus lightly, but he is the one we will always remember. The question for the Jazz is, can Donovan Mitchell forget.
“It doesn’t appear salvageable.”
via The Athletic
Shams Charania, Sam Amick, and Tony Jones wrote a big story going behind the scenes in Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City. It paints a picture that provides insight into why Mitchell is so upset with Gobert. The Jazz weren’t just vigilant; they were ahead of the curve. Quinn Snyder has family and friends in Seattle, one of the first cities in the United States to face the reality of COVID-19. That made him aware that the question with the virus isn’t “if” but “when.”
As it turns out, the Jazz had numerous meetings and educational sessions talking to players about the virus before Gobert tested positive. The first one was on February 25th, five days before the NBA sent out its first set of specialized protocols. Gobert had more than one chance to accept the seriousness of the situation but didn’t. And therein lies the rub.
The Jazz had multiple conversations with Mitchell, trying to explain to him that it’s equally possible he transferred COVID-19 to Gobert. But the issue doesn’t seem to be about getting sick, but how Gobert behaved after so many conversations and warnings the team set up for everyone in the organization. While many in the organization are worried, Joe Ingles is confident everything’s going to be OK once the team gets back together.
“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.”
Joe Ingles, via The Athletic
The Jazz had a lot of basketball problems to solve before COVID-19 struck. This situation can go two ways. If Mitchell and Gobert aren’t able to make it work, they may decide it’s time to trade Gobert and start anew. Dor no.2 present an opportunity to have some difficult conversations that will bring them even closer.
If the Utah Jazz are one thing, they are a high character team. That’s why I’d bet on door no.2. That doesn’t mean their basketball problems will magically go away, but it will help to solve them.