What you’re about to read is pure speculation, let’s make that absolutely clear, but it’s not impure speculation, rather it’s based on some pretty good information and common sense.
I’m not reporting here, just thinking out loud.
After hearing what Donovan Mitchell said during a remarkably candid news conference some 16 hours after a playoff game ended, not just any playoff game, but one he was disallowed, against his will, to participate in, and one the Jazz went on to lose.
He was disallowed by, he said, “They.”
They. They. They.
Who exactly is that?
Ooh, boy. Here we go.
Somebody or somebodies who wield(s) a ton of power within the Jazz organization.
Let’s back up.
Mitchell, the Jazz’s best offensive player and their most influential and marketable player, really, really, really wanted to play. He believed what he said hours before the tip of Game 1 against Memphis, that he was ready and able to play.
It’s been reported that someone significant in his camp thought that and, more importantly, Mitchell himself said that he thought that.
He was psyched to play. He was able to play. He wanted to play.
Mitchell said he didn’t sleep on Sunday night, tossing and turning and burning, after the loss and after he was forced out.
Clearly, he was beyond bugged. He was … pissed.
He concurrently seemed to want everyone to know how angry he was and that he was not only looking forward to playing in Game 2, but that he would, in fact, play in Game 2.
He was even asked if there was any chance the same thing could occur in the run-up to the second game, namely, that he would pronounce that he’d be playing and then … and then, he would not be permitted to.
His answer: “No.”
That was the response coming from the Jazz’s $200 million man.
He might as well have said: “Hell, no.”
It’s interesting that just those 16 hours later, Mitchell went from a complete no-go to a complete go-go.
Power struggles like this don’t usually happen within the Jazz, and when they do, they rarely get into the headlines.
Mitchell — again, guesses here — wanted it to go public.
He talked on Monday about a desire to let his teammates 100 percent know he didn’t bail on them. No, somebody else made that decision. Donovan wanted to be out on the floor with them, winning the game.
Is there an echo in here? He was ready and raring to go.
After saying he would go, he embarrassingly was scratched off the NBA’s biggest stage under its biggest lights.
It’s easy to believe the Jazz believed they could win Game 1 without Mitchell, what with the Grizzlies coming off a rugged battle with Golden State just 45 hours earlier and then having to travel. The Jazz had done some good winning since their star guard sprained his ankle in mid-April.
They also had shown some vulnerabilities — and those vulnerabilities reared up in the eventual playoff loss. And just like that, the home-court advantage the Jazz had worked so hard to gain during the regular season was gone, at least in their opening series.
Mitchell, of course, thinks that had he played, the Jazz would never have been in this precarious position. They’d be up, 1-zip, and right on schedule to do what they had planned on doing from before this season even started.
Now, that’s more in doubt.
So, who made the decision to bench the star?
It likely started with someone on the Jazz medical staff, but, being such a huge deal, especially since Mitchell was protesting it, the whole deal had to travel up the team’s power structure to the most powerful manager in the organization.
That would be Dennis Lindsey.
Again, we’re all guessing here.
To reiterate: “I was frustrated and upset … I felt I was ready to go,” Mitchell said.
When a team’s brightest star is frustrated and upset, that’s a problem that will either fester or get healed. Just like a twisted ankle, it can take time. But if it takes too much time … who knows?
Mitchell said he’s looking ahead — to the next game, to winning a series. But what just took place is jammed into his memory banks, so it will be compelling theater to see how this plays out over the long haul.
Over the short haul, it appears that Mitchell will be back. As long as he gets a proper permission slip.
He’ll make a difference, if he is and remains healthy, and if other Jazz players pitch in, too.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.