Rudy Gobert

Latest On Rudy Gobert/Donovan Mitchell Relationship

The tension between Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the first two NBA players known to have tested positive for the coronavirus in March, has been a simmering subplot since the league suspended its season nearly four months ago. In his latest piece, Tim MacMahon of ESPN takes a deep dive into the subject, writing that there were some issues between Gobert and Mitchell even before the COVID-19 situation.

As MacMahon details, a high-ranking Jazz source described the pre-coronavirus tension between the two All-Stars as “a two out of 10 on the NBA drama scale.” That situation worsened a little in March because Mitchell blamed Gobert for infecting him with COVID-19, sources tell ESPN.

The two players didn’t talk for several weeks following their positive tests, despite Gobert’s efforts to reach out. When the Jazz wanted to start virtual meetings and workouts in early April, Gobert told teammates that he didn’t feel comfortable participating in them until he and Mitchell had talked. The two finally touched base about a month into the hiatus, writes MacMahon.

“We told each other what we had to say to each other,” Gobert said. “We are both on the same page. We both want to win. We both think that we have a great opportunity, and we know that we need each other. We talked about a lot of things, but the main thing was that we are on the same page and the fact that our team needs us. We can win together. That’s the most important thing.”

MacMahon’s story is packed with interesting details on the Jazz and the relationship between the team’s two stars. It’s worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights:

  • The pre-pandemic issues between Gobert and Mitchell often revolved around touches on offense, since Mitchell sometimes try to do too much, while Gobert has a habit of letting teammates know if they didn’t pass to him when he felt he was open. As MacMahon notes, Mitchell has heard the brunt of those gripes, since he has the ball in his hands the most. “Rudy has to pick his spots, and Donovan can’t react to everything,” one team source told ESPN.
  • Gobert acknowledged that he shouldn’t be airing his on-court frustration quite so much, per MacMahon. “I understand that I’m annoying. I can be very annoying,” said the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. “I think maybe because (Mitchell) was really good really early, I’ve been very demanding and maybe in not always a positive way. Sometimes you don’t realize it. … It’s pretty much, I’m the a–hole.”
  • A pair of All-Star snubs prior to this season bothered Gobert, and MacMahon suggests that some people in the Jazz organization thought the big man may have started focusing too much on his scoring statistics in the hopes of earning more recognition. Gobert, who told ESPN that “every single player in the NBA thinks about his stats,” admitted that was a fair concern.
  • Still, Gobert insists he’s happy to let Mitchell be the face of the franchise, as MacMahon relays. “Donovan has a very bright personality and all that, and the way he plays, he’s more fun to watch than me,” Gobert said. “If I was 12 years old… I wouldn’t want to watch Rudy Gobert get dunks and alter shots. I’d want to watch Donovan Mitchell cross people up and do crazy layups, crazy dunks, of course. I totally understand how it works, and I’m fine with it.”
  • The occasional issues between Gobert and Mitchell aren’t expected to lead to a break-up. The Jazz want to keep both players, and they’ve each expressed interest in remaining in Utah long-term. According to MacMahon, a max-salary extension offer for Mitchell is a no-brainer, though negotiations with Gobert may be trickier — he’ll be eligible for an extension worth up to 35% of the cap, compared to 25% for Mitchell.
  • There’s hope within the organization that the pre- and post-coronavirus issues between the two stars may push them to have more productive conversations with one another and grow closer, says MacMahon. “When adversity comes, it can pull the group together or it can push them away,” a team source told ESPN. “That’s the reality of the situation. It’s up to them.”

Rudy Gobert Discusses Backlash After Positive Test

Rudy Gobert faced a lot of anger after his positive test for COVID-19 led to a league-wide shutdown, and some of it came from his own locker room. The Jazz center spoke about about the experience Friday during an 11-minute session with reporters, including Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

“I’m happy now. I’m in a good place, you know,” he said. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”

Gobert was not only the NBA’s first player diagnosed with the coronavirus — he became an object lesson in the need to take the virus seriously. Two days before the positive test, he made light of an NBA directive about distancing by touching every reporter’s tape recorder that was on a table in front of him. There was an immediate public backlash for making light of the situation, which increased once he tested positive.

He took steps to atone for the mistake, donating $200K to a fund helping part-time workers at Jazz games and another $310K to families in Utah, Oklahoma City and his native France who were affected by the pandemic.

“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”

Gobert addressed several other topics during the interview:

On the strained relationship with teammate Donovan Mitchell, who tested positive shortly after Gobert:

“As long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters. And, you know, I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we plan on continuing doing.”

On the negative reaction he faced after the shutdown, both on social media and with some teammates:

“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you and threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being. But at the same time, people just judge you on the perception they have and the perception they get. Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action.”

On his recovery from the virus, which still isn’t complete:

“Smelling, I took that for granted too. It’s back now, it’s back at 80%, I’m not worried.”

On the possibility of a super-max deal, which may happen this offseason:

“I don’t plan on leaving (Utah) right now.”

Western Notes: Mitchell, Thunder, Williamson, Burke

Jazz teammates Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert appear to be patching up their relationship, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. “Right now we’re good,” Mitchell said in a Zoom conference with the media. “We’re going out there ready to hoop.” In the wake of his positive test for COVID-19 in March, Mitchell was said to be frustrated with Gobert. the first NBA player to test positive. The situation reportedly remained tense even after Mitchell recovered from the virus.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • While 25 players around the NBA have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since June 23, there have been no positive tests among Thunder players and staff members, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman reports. All players have returned to Oklahoma City for mandatory individual workouts and the team will fly to Orlando next week.
  • Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is confident rookie star Zion Williamson will continue to make a big impact once plays resumes, he indicated in a interview with William Guillory of The Athletic. “I think he’s worked extremely hard during the time away,” Gentry said. “I think, to some degree, you’ll see everybody a little rusty when we come back because we’ve been away for so long. But he’ll get himself right, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t pick up right where he left off. “
  • The Mavericks felt they had enough depth up front to replace Willie Cauley-Stein, which is why they signed point guard Trey Burke as a substitute player, according to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. Dallas also had a need in the backcourt with Jalen Brunson and Courtney Lee injured. “As we looked at the profile of the team, we felt there was more of a need at that backup (guard spot), scoring off the bench,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. Cauley-Stein was one of the players who opted out of the restart.

And-Ones: Luxury Tax, Thomas, Scola, Top Defenders

The Trail Blazers have the highest luxury tax bill at $5.9MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Team salaries are now frozen after the one-week transactions period that closed late Tuesday. The Heat ($2.9MM), Thunder ($2.5MM) and Timberwolves ($582K) are also over the luxury tax line but the projected $11.9MM total is the lowest since the luxury tax was introduced in 2002/03, Marks notes.

We have more from around the basketball world:

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Jazz, Morris, J. Johnson

Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who recorded the NBA’s first positive test for COVID-19, still hasn’t fully recovered from the virus. Gobert, whose test results sparked the league-wide shutdown, describes his symptoms in an interview with L’Equip (translation provided by BasketUSA).

The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%,” Gobert said. “I can smell the smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”

Gobert is eager to start playing again, saying he hasn’t been part of a five-on-five game since the hiatus began. He has been boxing, swimming and running in the mountains, but had a physical reaction last month that he said felt like “ants in my toes.” Gobert also talked about shouldering the blame for the shutdown.

The NBA was waiting for a first case to stop the championship, it fell on me!” he said. “I became the image of the coronavirus for the Americans, the domino that triggered the end of the season, but it was not I who brought the virus to the United States. ”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz will bring a fully healthy team to Orlando, except for Bojan Bogdanovic, who had surgery on his right wrist last month, coach Quin Snyder tells Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Snyder also expressed support for his players who are advocating for social justice, such as Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris has used the frustration of sliding in the 2017 draft as incentive to prove he belongs in the NBA, writes Steve Kosmider of the Athletic. Morris was projected as a first-rounder in some circles, but went to Denver with the 51st pick and had to work his way up from a two-way contract. “I was really mad about it,” Morris recalled. “Guys I dominated in college on multiple occasions were getting picked ahead of me. I got hurt during the draft process. I pulled my quad at the Laker workout, which was like my third workout. I still had about 15 workouts to go. I feel like if I had did them I would have moved up. I only worked out for three teams so that may have hurt me, but I still think my resume, doing what I did at Iowa State, should have had me going higher.”
  • James Johnson is certain to exercise his $16MM option and remain with the Timberwolves next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Johnson provides a veteran presence on a young team and is a vocal leader in the locker room.

Kris Dunn Meets Starter Criteria, Increases Value Of QO

Bulls guard Kris Dunn has been deemed to have met the starter criteria as a result of the shortened season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). As a result, Dunn will receive a qualifying offer of $7,091,457 instead of $4,642,800 this offseason if Chicago wants to make him a restricted free agent.

We broke down Dunn’s situation in greater depth earlier this month, but the abridged version is this: A player eligible for restricted free agency receives a more lucrative qualifying offer if he starts 41 games or plays 2,000 minutes in the season before he reaches free agency, or if he averages 41 starts or 2,000 minutes in the two seasons before his free agency.

Dunn, who started 32 games this season and 76 in total over the last two years, fell slightly short of the 41-game-per-season requirement, but the criteria became prorated due to the Bulls only playing 65 of their 82 games this season. As a result, the former No. 5 overall pick was considered to have met the starter criteria, increasing the value of his qualifying offer.

As we’ve previously pointed out, the $2.5MM difference could have a real impact on Dunn’s free agency. It’s possible the Bulls will be less inclined to tender a qualifying offer now that it’s worth $7.1MM instead of $4.6MM. If they do move ahead with the QO, it’s possible Dunn will be more inclined to accept it.

If Chicago doesn’t tender a qualifying offer to Dunn, he’d become an unrestricted free agent.

As Marks and ESPN have previously reported, the NBA and NBPA also agreed to prorate the criteria for bonuses and incentives available to players in 2019/20, based on the shortened season. As a result, the following players have now achieved bonuses, according to Marks (Twitter link):

  • Rudy Gobert (Jazz): $250K for a rate of one rebound per 2.52 minutes in 62 games played.
    • Original criteria: A rate of one rebound per <3.2 minutes in 67 games.
  • Solomon Hill (Heat): $532K for 992 minutes played.
    • Original criteria: 1,000 minutes.
  • Jrue Holiday (Pelicans): $255K for 1,922 minutes played; $255K for 55 games played; $255K for 4.9 RPG in 55 games.
    • Original criteria: 2,075 minutes played; 66 games played; 3.15 RPG in 67 games.
  • Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): $858K for 32 wins.
    • Original criteria: 33 wins.
  • Kyle Lowry (Raptors): $200K for All-Star berth and 52 games played.
    • Original criteria: All-Star berth and 65 games played.
  • Patty Mills (Spurs): $250K for 149 three-pointers made.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM.
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers): $250K for 184 three-pointers made and .375 3PT%.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM; .370 3PT%.

Western Notes: D’Antoni, Jazz, Doncic, Thunder

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who has traditionally played a short rotation in meaningful games, sounds like he’s going to experiment with playing more guys once the NBA returns from hiatus.

“With (GM) Daryl (Morey) and data, with how we think gives us the best chance to win, it probably comes down to nine guys. Now, who those nine are they could change, and maybe early we experiment, practice and watch,” D’Antoni tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

D’Antoni acknowledged that many of the players won’t be in peak regular-season form, adding that “it’s something that you have to play through.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have had numerous conversations since the pair tested positive for COVID-19 and team sources are “adamant” that the two will be able to coexist without issue, Tim MacMahon writes in a collaborate piece with other writers on ESPN.com. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay previously said that the two players were ready to put it behind them.
  • The time off has allowed Luka Doncic‘s thumb, wrist and ankles to heal and while there were rumors that he gained some weight during the hiatus, sources tell MacMahon (same piece) that the Mavericks star has been working out diligently in Slovenia.
  • The Thunder‘s biggest concern coming back from the hiatus could be their chemistry, ESPN’s Royce Young contends in the same piece. OKC compiled a 34-13 record since Thanksgiving, which was second in the league over that span. However, the club needed the first month of the season to get its three-guard lineup in sync.

Lindsey: Jazz Stars Gobert, Mitchell Ready To Move Forward

Speaking today to reporters, Jazz executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey downplayed the idea that the relationship between All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell remains icy.

They’re ready to put this behind them, move forward, act professionally,” Lindsey said of the recent rift between Gobert and Mitchell (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon). “… We’re very pleased with the collective makeup of our group, Donovan and Rudy in particular. We look forward to moving forward.”

Lindsey added that Gobert and Mitchell “know they need each other,” as Sarah Todd of The Deseret News tweets.

There was said to be tension between the third-year guard and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in March, stemming from their positive coronavirus tests and the cavalier attitude Gobert reportedly showed with teammates and their belongings in the days leading up to his diagnosis. Although there was a perception that Mitchell was upset with Gobert, at least one report indicated that both players had issues with one another.

That rift still existed a month later, but a subsequent report suggested the two Utah stars had begun working on repairing their relationship. Gobert confirmed at that time that he had spoken to Mitchell, adding that both players were “ready to go out there and try to win a championship” for the Jazz.

While the Jazz may eventually have to consider a major roster shakeup if they can’t break through and make a deep playoff run, the idea that coronavirus-related tension between Gobert and Mitchell would result in a blockbuster trade always seemed far-fetched. We’ll have a better sense of where things stand when teams reunite and Mitchell publicly addresses the situation, but Lindsey’s comments today indicate the organization doesn’t expect it to be an issue going forward.

How 2020 All-NBA Picks Could Impact Contract Situations

All-NBA selections have become more important than ever in recent years, since teams can agree to increase the overall value of certain maximum-salary contracts based on whether or not a player has earned All-NBA honors in a given season.

Those higher max salaries are also available to players who win MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, but there’s only one of each of those awards per year. There are 15 All-NBA players annually, creating more opportunities for players to become eligible for those more lucrative contracts, informally known as “super-max” deals.

As we explain in our glossary entry on the “Designated Veteran Extension,” a player with between seven and nine years of NBA experience who meets certain contract criteria and hasn’t changed teams since the end of his rookie contract become eligible for a maximum salary worth 35% of the cap – instead of 30% – if he was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

Similar incentives are available for players coming off their rookie scale contracts, as noted in our glossary entry on the “Derrick Rose Rule.” Those players can earn max deals worth up to 30% of the cap instead of 25% if they were named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

The differences between the various levels of maximum salaries can be substantial over the course of a long-term contract. For instance, in 2019/20, a five-year max contract that starts at 25% of the cap and includes 8% annual raises is worth just over $158MM. By comparison, a five-year deal that starts at 35% of the cap with 8% annual raises is worth over $221MM. A five-year contract at the 30% max falls in between, at about $190MM.

We don’t know yet what this year’s All-NBA teams will look like – or even when voting will take place – but as our informal polls last week showed, there are a number of candidates whose future earnings could be affected by whether or not they earn one of those 15 spots.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those players…

Players who have already qualified for super-max contracts:

Antetokounmpo and Gobert didn’t even need to rely on All-NBA spots to qualify for super-max contracts — Giannis’ MVP award last year and Gobert’s back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019 secured their eligibility.

Because both players only had six years of experience entering the 2019/20 season, they had to wait one more year to be eligible to actually receive super-max extension offers, which would be worth 35% of the cap instead of 30%.

Antetokounmpo is a lock to receive such an offer from the Bucks, who have publicly said they’ll put it on the table as soon as they can. That was supposed to happen this July, but the NBA’s hiatus has thrown that timeline into flux. Whenever Milwaukee makes its offer, it would be for a five-year extension that would start in 2021/22 and be worth 35% of that season’s cap.

Gobert’s outlook is cloudier. He could also sign a five-year, 35% max-salary extension that would start in 2021/22, but he’s not at the same level of superstardom that Giannis is, so it remains to be seen how aggressive the Jazz will actually be in attempting to lock him up beyond next season.

Players whose already-signed rookie extensions would be impacted by an All-NBA selection:

Siakam and Simmons signed maximum-salary rookie scale extensions with their respective teams last fall. Both contracts will go into effect in 2020/21 and both include Rose Rule language, meaning they’ll be among the players closely monitoring this year’s All-NBA results.

In our series of polls, Siakam earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. However, I think there’s a real possibility he could end up on the Third Team. Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard will likely receive more votes than Siakam. Anthony Davis will place higher than Siakam too if voters consider him a forward. And even if Davis is listed as a center, Jayson Tatum is among those who should give Siakam a strong push for that Second Team forward spot.

While Siakam might be satisfied to end up on any All-NBA team, a spot on the Second Team would be far more satisfying from a financial perspective. His deal calls for a starting salary worth 28% of the cap if he earns All-NBA Second Team honors, but just 25% if he makes the Third Team.

As we outlined in the fall, that difference would have been worth nearly $16MM over four years based on a $116MM cap. The cap is no longer expected to get that high, but even so, missing out on a Second Team spot would cost Siakam millions.

As for Simmons, he wasn’t one of the 15 players voted to an All-NBA team by Hoops Rumors readers, but he looks to me like a viable candidate for the Third Team. If he makes the Third Team, his starting salary would be 28% of next year’s cap, rather than the 25% he’d get if he doesn’t make an All-NBA squad. Those three percentage points would impact Simmons even more than they would Siakam over the life of their contracts, since Simmons’ five-year deal runs for an extra season and the amount of the annual raises are based on the starting salary.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray also signed a rookie scale extension with Rose Rule language, but isn’t a realistic candidate for an All-NBA nod.

Players whose next contract could be impacted by an All-NBA selection this season:

If Embiid – who was voted onto Hoops Rumors’ All-NBA Third Team – earns an All-NBA spot this season after doing so last year, he’d be in the same position heading into 2020/21 that Antetokounmpo and Gobert were entering 2019 — he’d have qualified for a super-max extension, but wouldn’t yet be eligible to sign one.

Once the 2021/22 league year begins, Embiid would have seven years of NBA experience, with All-NBA nods in at least two of the last three years, making him eligible to sign a four-year super-max extension that would begin in 2023/24, with a starting salary worth 35% of the cap. Even if Embiid doesn’t make an All-NBA team this season, doing so next year would still make him eligible for that same deal.

As for Ingram, he’s a long shot to be named to an All-NBA team, but in the unlikely event that he is, he’d be eligible to sign for a starting salary of up to 30% of the cap on a new free agent contract with the Pelicans. No other team looking to sign him to an offer sheet could exceed 25% of the cap in that scenario.

Other players to start monitoring if they earn All-NBA honors this season:

These players fall into a few separate sub-categories. Jokic and Booker, for instance, are in their fifth seasons and on their second NBA contracts. An All-NBA spot – which is far likelier for Jokic – would be a good start toward earning super-max eligibility, but they’d still have to make another All-NBA team in either 2021 or 2022 to become eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension in 2022.

Doncic, an All-NBA lock, and Young, a lesser candidate, are only in their second NBA seasons. If they were to make All-NBA teams this year and next, they’d be eligible to sign rookie scale extensions with starting salaries worth up to 30% of the cap during the 2021 offseason. Those deals would go into effect in 2022/23.

Adebayo, Mitchell, and Tatum are all in their third seasons and will be extension-eligible during the 2020 offseason. Earning an All-NBA spot this year actually wouldn’t do much for their Rose Rule eligibility — they’d still have to do it again in 2021 to qualify, since the criteria calls for an All-NBA berth in either the season before the new contract begins or in two of the three prior seasons.

Still, earning All-NBA honors this year would give those three players additional leverage to negotiate Rose Rule language into their potential rookie scale extensions, which would go into effect in 2021/22.

Strong All-NBA candidates who are notably ineligible for super-max contracts:

Beal was in position to qualify for a super-max extension if he had earned All-NBA honors this season, but the short-term contract extension he signed last October eliminated that possibility. By the time that extension expires, he’ll have 10 years of NBA experience and will be eligible for the 35% max anyway.

Davis has the right amount of NBA experience to gain eligibility and should be an All-NBA lock, but the fact that he changed teams last summer ensures he’ll no longer qualify for a Designated Veteran Contract this offseason — he missed out on the possibility of the super-max as soon as he left the Pelicans.

Various other All-NBA candidates won’t meet the super-max criteria for various reasons. Some, like James Harden, are already on a super-max contract. Others, such as LeBron James, already have 10+ years of experience and can’t qualify for a higher max than the 35% they already get. Recently changing teams (ie. Jimmy Butler) or signing new long-term deals (ie. Khris Middleton) also remove certain players from super-max contention.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Donovan Mitchell Untouchable In Trade Talks?

A recent rift between Jazz All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert led to speculation that the Jazz may be forced to move one or the other this offseason, but that is not the case.

Mitchell and Gobert admitted to going through a rough patch after both players tested positive for COVID-19, with reports suggesting that Gobert was cavalier with teammates and their belongings leading up to his diagnosis. However, the two Jazz cornerstones are said to be repairing their relationship and are expected to remain together for the foreseeable future.

Utah has no plans to trade either player and Mitchell should be considered “untouchable” in trade talks, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes in his latest mailbag. Jones, who addressed a reader’s question on the matter, cites Mitchell’s talent as well as his involvement in Utah’s community and his contract status as reasons why the Jazz are unlikely to consider a move.

Mitchell has one more year left on his rookie-scale contract, though he’s expected to sign an extension this summer. Gobert has just one season left on his deal. The center will make approximately $26.5MM during the 2020/21 campaign.