It seems like years ago now that the NBA shut down the season rather abruptly following Rudy Gobert's positive coronavirus test ahead of a Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder matchup. But checking the calendar, it was indeed only four months ago. It also hasn't been that long since there appeared to be an irreparable rift in the relationship between Utah's foundational cornerstones in Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
Prior to testing positive, Gobert was not taking the virus seriously. He rubbed his hand all over a microphone after the NBA began instituting sanitation measures to prevent against potential infection. Mitchell also tested positive after Gobert did, and was reportedly very unhappy with his teammate for his lackadaisical attitude about COVID-19 and the consequences that came about. Only recently did Mitchell come out and say that he and Gobert had hashed out their differences and were committed to winning together as members of the Jazz.
That resolution did not come about quickly. Tim MacMahon wrote a feature on their relationship for ESPN on Tuesday and revealed that Mitchell and Gobert did not speak to each other for a full month after Gobert's test came back positive and the league shut down:
The Jazz wanted to start virtual team meetings and workouts, but Gobert told teammates in early April that he wouldn't feel right participating until he had a discussion with Mitchell. A month into the NBA hiatus, Gobert and Mitchell talked.
MacMahon also revealed that Mitchell blamed Gobert for his positive coronavirus test.
The whole story should be a bit concerning for Jazz fans. While MacMahon's reporting made it clear that the two have moved on from the incident that sparked all this, it's also very clear that Mitchell and Gobert don't always get along well. One does not have to like their coworker to work successfully with them, but it doesn't sound like the two like each other very much at all:
"For us, it's like, there's going to be tension," said Mitchell, who was adamant that their long-uneasy relationship didn't influence his reaction toward Gobert after testing positive for the coronavirus. "There's going to be back-and-forth. Obviously, I feel like I should be right here, he feels like he should be right there. But it's always going to happen. It happens on every team ... "So I feel like in a work environment, you're not going to always get along or go out to eat and hang out with your teammates. So that's that."
He's definitely right, but saying "That's that" shouldn't inspire a ton of confidence that this partnership will work. Still, neither is under the illusion they are friends, so that's a step in the right direction. Or at least one would figure.
Everything is smooth sailing right now. We'll see if it's the same when Gobert is up for his big extension next summer and the Jazz have to decide just how much money they'll commit to the multi-time Defensive Player of the Year.