The Utah Jazz decided to sit superstar guard Donovan Mitchell for Game 1, but the team’s medical staff has since cleared him to return the court for Game 2 of their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Mitchell, who has been out since April 16th due to a sprained right ankle, says he was “definitely frustrated and upset” with the late decision to keep him out of Game 1 on Sunday, and reportedly has deepened tensions within the team, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim MacMahon.
“For me, for my team, I was definitely frustrated and upset that I wasn’t able to play,” Mitchell said. “I’m a competitor. I felt I was ready to go. I felt ready to go, and unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. That was not how it happened. I was ready to go when I spoke [to media after Sunday’s shootaround], and they came to the decision that that’s what it was.
“The biggest thing for us is moving forward. We lost Game 1, and we’ve got s— to handle. Excuse my language, we’ve got s— to handle moving forward.”
Mitchell returned to practice this week, and will be a huge boost for the Jazz moving forward.
“The biggest thing is I felt like I should have played,” he continued. “To be honest with you, it’s no secret. We all know that. At the end of the day, the experts said no. We can disagree on those things, but that was the frustration.
“It was unfair to my team. I felt like, man, I let them down in the sense that you’re not there for them in a playoff game. That probably hurts me more than anything else. It eats me. I barely slept because you think about that stuff. So, that was really where it hit me, where it hurt.”
Mitchell spoke to his teammates during a players-only meeting prior to practice on Monday.
“I talked to just my teammates and I said, ‘Look, we’re in here together,'” Mitchell said. “I don’t know if I should have shared that, but that’s what it is. We’re in here together. I want them to know — my teammates first, before anything else — that that’s what it is.”
Jazz head coach Quinn Snyder agreed with Mitchell’s message to the team that they need to focus on what’s in front of them now.
“My focus is the team, and to the degree, there’s certain things where you just move forward,” Snyder said. “I think that’s where we are now. If you watch ‘Ted Lasso,’ sometimes your favorite animal is the goldfish because it has a memory of 10 seconds, and that’s where we need to be. We need to be moving forward and thinking about Game 2.”