Exclusive: Donovan Mitchell on relationship with Rudy Gobert; his future in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The relationship between Utah Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert has been described by many league insiders as the modern-day Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal predicament.

“I wish,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “Because they got three rings.”

Mitchell, in a rare hour-long sit-down interview on the “Posted Up with Chris Haynes” podcast, opened up about his relationship with Gobert, addressed rumors he could be unhappy in Utah, passionately explained his No. 1 priority and described his experience in Salt Lake City speaking out on social injustice issues.

The three-time All-Star said it was time people heard it from him.

“For me, I’m quiet as far as stuff like this. ... But as far as just speaking, I’m big on just letting things go. It doesn’t really faze me. As long as I’m good with my teammates and my coaches, that’s how I’ve been in my life with my family,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “Everybody’s going to have something to say. … So for now, I think it’s just time [to] just come from me and understand that in this business, the NBA, sometimes people can speak on things and it doesn’t have to always necessarily be true. It could just be stuff that’s being said.”

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell addressed his relationship with teammate Rudy Gobert, his happiness in Utah and more on the latest
Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell addressed his relationship with teammate Rudy Gobert, his happiness in Utah and more on the latest "Posted Up with Chris Haynes" podcast. (Graphic by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

‘We’re good’: Donovan Mitchell on reported tension with Rudy Gobert

The friction between Mitchell and Gobert has been well-documented for a few years. At times, it has spilled out to the public. But the 6-foot-2 guard said the narrative is overblown.

“First of all, we’re good. I just want to go on record with saying that,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “I think it’s interesting that stuff happens, and he and I have never played at this high of a level together since we’ve been here. So I make the joke, ‘For a group that hates each other, man, we’re playing pretty well.’

“And we can be even better. We’re good. We’re focused on winning. We have a common goal. I think that’s the biggest thing. You don’t always have to be the best of friends with people you work with. But at the end of the day, if you work towards a common goal that’s beneficial to the team, that’s what’s first. We want to win, and I don’t think either of us are worried about what’s being said around us.”

A month ago, Gobert made some remarks many interpreted as a shot at Mitchell and other Jazz teammates when he complimented the winning habits of the Phoenix Suns while singling out Devin Booker and his improved defense.

“Guys like [Booker], they buy in, and you can tell they take pride in playing defense and stopping their man, doing whatever they can defensively to stop the other team and be part of a winning culture. I think we’re not there yet, but I think we’re going to get there,” Gobert told reporters.

Mitchell acknowledged he would have preferred Gobert kept his critiques inside the locker room, but he affirms it wasn’t a big deal.

“People have their own way of expressing things. I think the bigger way would have been just to do it in house, but it’s water under the bridge for me now, and for us as a group,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “... When you have two people that are competitive, you want to ultimately be the best. I would take that as opposed to two dudes who just want to sit on their ass and do nothing. You have two guys who are going to go out there and compete. He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I’m a three-time All-Star. We’re going to find ways to get better individually and collectively as a group, and I’ll take that.”

‘I’m happy right now’: On rumors Mitchell wants out of Utah

The Mitchell-Gobert rumors aren’t the only hearsay circulating around the league.

The 25-year-old star out of Louisville is rumored to be dissatisfied with the Jazz and thinking about making a move. Mitchell stressed repeatedly and emphatically the importance of winning a championship. Ultimately, two major factors will dictate his future decisions: family and the opportunity to be a continual title contender.

“I think I’ve reached a point where you’re happy with yourself, first off,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “... But as far as myself with the franchise, I see the articles, but I really address it with my teammates. I’ve seen it. I’m not too stressed about it. I’m not thinking about it. Because for me, it’s about how we can win.

“There’s going to be talk whether I say something, whether I don’t say something because that’s how I’ve always been. I’ve always been someone that’s like, ‘OK, they’re saying stuff. Let’s go ahead and lock in.’ I haven’t really thought too much about it. I’m happy right now and just continuing to find ways to win.”

The Jazz are fourth in the Western Conference and have won six straight games. They’re at +1400 odds to win the 2021-22 NBA championship, per BetMGM.

‘I’m not going to stop’: On speaking out about racial justice

The five-year veteran also spoke about his desire to further advocate for change in the justice system as it pertains to minorities. He’s one of the youngest members in the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, “an organization of players, coaches, team governors, and executives leading the NBA family’s advocacy work to dismantle racial inequality and advance social justice,” its website says.

His mother, Nicole, is a longtime educator in the New York area. Education is rooted in his genes. But he said his voice on such matters isn’t always welcomed by many in Utah.

“It hasn’t been the most receptive. I won’t lie and say it has,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “But that’s what I meant when I said, like, I’m not going to stop. I think for me, part of creating change is having uncomfortable conversations and being uncomfortable. What you choose to do with the information is up to you. I’m going to continue to speak and give knowledge.

“I give credit to what [Jazz owner] Ryan Smith has done and [minority owner] Dwyane [Wade] and those guys in ownership. We give scholarships after every win to kids who are minority kids in Utah, who are first generation, second generation. That’s the type of work that I think is special.”

Mitchell expressed his objective for the next five years, and it’s centered on winning.

“An NBA champion — that’s the goal. MVP is the goal. Hopefully, more than one of both. That’s the goal,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “Multiple championships. I want to win. That’s what I strive for. Every morning I wake up, every time I work out, we want to win a championship. How do we go about doing that? How can I be the best Donovan that I can be for my team and go out there and compete and win? So if you don’t see it for yourself, then you’re never really going to get there.”

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