Donovan Mitchell’s already confounding ankle injury got even more so Sunday, when a team source confirmed that the All-Star guard would sit out the Utah Jazz’s postseason opener Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies — just hours after he told media he was good to go.
After missing the team’s final 16 games of the regular season with a sprained ankle, the All-Star guard met with media just before noon Sunday, following a morning shootaround, and announced that he would be back in action for Sunday night’s postseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’m ready to go tonight,” Mitchell said. “No pain. I’m excited to get going.”
That, apparently, did not assuage the team’s training staff.
Around 3:30 p.m., the team issued its official injury report, listing Mitchell as “OUT” due to a right ankle sprain. He had not appeared at all on the team’s injury report issued Saturday.
Another team source said that Mitchell did not re-aggravate the injury, but that the medical staff convened after the team’s shootaround — and after Mitchell told the world he was playing — and decided it was best to pull the plug on him for Game 1.
Coach Quin Snyder held a pregame media availability around 5:45 p.m. and was not forthcoming with many additional details, except to say that Mitchell would be evaluated “day to day,” and that the guard was apparently was not in agreement with the decision to hold him out Sunday night.
“It’s reflective of what a competitor he is and how bad he wants to be out there and is looking forward to being out there,” Snyder said.
Mitchell’s teammates noted after the game that they were confused by the decision for him not to play.
“It was a big surprise. I just don’t know … I try to stay out of all this because it’s just going to give me a headache,” Rudy Gobert said after the Jazz’s 112-109 loss to the Grizzlies. “… When you wake up [from a nap], you get ready for a game, and you find out that your star player is not going to play, it throws you off a little bit.”
Not that they were blaming the weird distraction for the loss, but it proved an unusual situation.
“Of course we miss him, especially in the playoffs. We all know how good he is,” said Bojan Bogdanovic. “I mean, I don’t know what happened, honestly, with the decision for him and the medical staff to keep him out. You should ask him.”
Mitchell’s return had been much anticipated as the weeks dragged on following his injury on April 16, but it was also widely expected after he returned to practice this past Thursday. Still, Mitchell said that day that while he was feeling fine (aside from some fatigue) and expected to play, he would need to string together several days of practice to gauge his body’s reaction and readiness.
He added Sunday that while a bit of soreness remains in the right ankle on account of lack of use, it’s nothing unexpected.
“The biggest thing is I feel good,” Mitchell said. “Like I said the other day, the best part about it is there’s always going to be soreness when you come back from an injury like this, there is always going to be things that haven’t been activated in — what has it been, five [weeks]? But I feel good.”
Snyder said after Saturday’s practice that Mitchell’s fatigue and soreness are not points of concern, and that the guard’s progress is where it ought to be.
“Well, it’s not a huge stretch that you’ll be fatigued if you haven’t played in a little while,” Snyder said. “… You don’t go from zero to 100 right away, so I know there’s an acclimation period. That said, I also think that, as you’ve heard from Donovan, his approach is right where it needs to be.”
Mitchell declined to say Sunday morning whether he and the coaching staff and the Jazz’s medical personnel had constructed a minutes restriction for him, citing “game-plan purposes.”
Turned out, that minutes restriction was set at zero.