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Utah Jazz: Rocky relationship leading to issues between Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell

Andrew Buller-Russ
Utah Jazz
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

For whatever reason, the Utah Jazz haven’t been the same force as they were a year ago when they finished with the top record in the Western Conference, going 52-20. This season, the Jazz already have more losses than all of last year at 31-21 and have most recently suffered to the tune of losing 11 of their past 14 games.

While most of the league was experiencing players missing from the lineup left and right during the NBA’s COVID breakout, the Jazz largely escaped that madness, with their starting five each playing in at least 40 of a possible 52 games.

At the core of their issues may be the rocky relationship of their two stars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. There have been reports of the two being at odds for several seasons, but as per usual, as losses pile up, so does the frustration level.

As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim MacMahon spoke about recently on the Hoop Collective podcast, the speculation about the dysfunction between the team’s two best players appears to be real.

“Gobert and Mitchell have been at each other’s… I don’t know if I can say at each other’s throats,” said Brian Windhorst.

“It’s back to being passively aggressively awkward,” interjected Tim MacMahon.

“It’s the most underplayed story in the league, I think,” continued Windhorst. “The Jazz are struggling a lot. This team had big expectations and they’re getting passed by frankly. They are not on the level they were a year ago. Donovan and Gobert, even though they’re both under long-term contract, are under each other’s skin. There’s all kind of subtweeting and passive aggressive stuff going on.”

Windhorst and MacMahon speaking about the stars on the Utah Jazz

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Could the Utah Jazz tension lead to trade sparks ahead of the deadline?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz
Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Losing 11-of-14 isn’t a great stretch for any team hoping to reach the NBA Finals. Though to be fair, it’s a small portion of a long season. These two three-time All-Stars have been together for five seasons and have reached the playoffs in all five years.

There’s a good chance the next winning streak gets them back in good graces with one another. Making a big deal before the Feb. 10 trade deadline that involves either Mitchell or Gobert seems unlikely. That doesn’t rule out another trade that helps address some of their defensive depth issues along the wing, but that isn’t expected to be a blockbuster.

If a trade involving either Gobert or Mitchell were to happen, it likely wouldn’t occur until the offseason. Yet, you never know. There are a lot of trade rumors involving possibly disgruntled stars out there from Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons. That offers a lot of different possibilities if push comes to shove in the next week or so.