Gobert baffled the public and infuriated his teammates by deliberately touching microphones and surfaces in the build-up to the final match before the NBA season was halted, only for the prank to spectacularly backfire when he became the first player to test positive for Covid-19.
Unimpressed shooting guard Mitchell, who is widely regarded as Jazz’s key player alongside Gobert, subsequently tested positive for the virus and admitted that it had taken him “a while to cool off” in a guarded response to questions about his relationship with Gobert during an interview last month.
Insiders had reportedly described the relationship between the pair as “unsalvageable,” but Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey has claimed that the duo have held discussions with figures at the team and are ready to bury the hatchet, adding that he still has nightmares about the events surrounding Gobert becoming basketball’s “patient zero.”
“At the most basic level, they know they need each other to complete their goal of being the last team standing in the NBA,” explained Lindsey, who will see the squad make their long-awaited return to the team’s training campus on Friday for individual sessions.
“They’re ready to put this behind them and move forward and act professionally. We’re very pleased with the collective makeup of our group, Donovan and Rudy in particular, and we look forward to moving forward.
“They’ve both visited at the ownership level, management level, coaches level.
“There’s going to be another level for the whole team to get back together and I firmly think our gratitude towards each other will be deeper because we missed that camaraderie, that competition.”
Jazz were seconds away from playing at Oklahoma City Thunder when both sets of players were ordered to return to their locker rooms, taking tests for the deadly coronavirus that revealed Mitchell was infected, suffering the same fate as the isolated Gobert and leading to a mass quarantine.
“As tough as it was for us to have Rudy be the first, I think it saved infections,” said Lindsey, remembering the run-up to the suspension of the NBA on March 11 as the outbreak spread in America.
“Frankly, it’s woken me up a few times thinking what might have happened if we were to have had that test come back a little bit later and the players were already playing the game.
“It’s something I’ve said many prayers of thanks and gratitude about. Not to be melodramatic, but I think it saved lives.”
Although no date has yet been agreed for the resumption of the NBA season, Lindsey said he was hopeful that Jazz could step up their preparations by starting group training sessions again next week.