As we detailed in a pair of earlier stories, the Jazz made the decision to hold Donovan Mitchell out of Game 1 of the team’s series vs. Memphis on Sunday, despite the fact that the All-Star guard believed he was ready to return from his ankle sprain.
Head coach Quin Snyder acknowledged to reporters before the game that Mitchell didn’t love the decision, but it sounds like Snyder may have understated the 24-year-old’s feelings on the matter. Sources tell Brian Windhorst and Tim MacMahon of ESPN that Mitchell was “incensed” by the decision and that it “deepened (his) tensions” with the team.
According to Windhorst and MacMahon, after Mitchell made slow progress during the early stages of his recovery, he began to work with his personal training staff – rather than Jazz trainers – on his rehab. Of course, it was the team’s training staff that made the call to hold him out on Sunday, after all signs had pointed toward him returning. ESPN’s duo notes that Utah has a history of being cautious with player injuries.
Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune suggests (via Twitter) that a power struggle of sorts seems to be taking place between the two training staffs – Mitchell’s and the team’s – over who makes the decisions on his recovery and availability.
Some “easing of frustrations” may need to take place this week behind the scenes, according to Windhorst and MacMahon, who say that new Jazz minority stakeholder Dwyane Wade could play a part in that process. Mitchell and Wade are close, and Wade has plenty of personal experience with managing injuries during the postseason.
While the Jazz and Mitchell don’t appear to be in a good spot in the short term, particularly since Utah lost Game 1, it’s unlikely to impact the guard’s long-term future with the franchise. Mitchell was originally on track to become a restricted free agent this summer but signed a five-year extension last offseason that will keep him under contract with the Jazz through at least 2024-25.