The Utah Jazz’s recent six-game road trip included five losses. As a result it also included myriad instances of postgame media session subtext shade, all of which culminated with the team once again blowing a 25-point lead against the Clippers on Tuesday night and Rudy Gobert famously griping that the team “never gets its hands dirty.”
Coach Quin Snyder’s pregame remarks Thursday included a mild rebuke of his center, suggesting, “There’s a forum for that that maybe is more productive.” And, following the Jazz’s much-needed 122-109 victory over the Lakers, the night culminated with a few of the team’s more passive-aggressive types extolling the need for everyone to just stick together.
The ball got rolling when Donovan Mitchell was asked about the players managed to not devolve into full-blown finger-pointing during that losing streak.
“That’s childish, in my opinion,” he began, unironically. “If we do that, then we’ve got some big problems. We have a group of guys who are seasoned, who know what this is, who’ve been through some ups and downs. So a five-game losing streak — if that’s what breaks us, we’re not who we think we are.”
Gobert — who famously earned some of his teammates’ ire for publicly calling out their mediocre defensive play earlier in the season — was asked post-Lakers game about Snyder’s critique, and if those conversations were also happening behind the scenes, rather than just in the media.
“I just speak my mind. For me, it’s never about pointing fingers. I’m not perfect in the way I communicate. I’m an emotional person, and I don’t like losing,” he said. “Obviously, I wish I would have never said anything; sometimes I’m a little too honest with you guys. You guys like it — it’s probably a little refreshing compared to a lot of guys in this league.”
After acknowledging that his media-benefitting forthrightness didn’t always sit well with teammates, the center added that such critiques do indeed exist when cameras and microphones aren’t present.
And that they always come from a good place.
And that he’s always willing to accept blame for things going wrong as well.
“I speak my mind, and it’s always about winning. It’s always about us trying to play the best basketball we can play,” Gobert said. “Those things, I’ve been saying them in the locker room, too. It’s not like we say some things here [in media sessions] that we don’t say to each other. We all know the things that we can do better. I just speak my mind. And I know sometimes it’s uncomfortable to hear the truth. But I’m part of it — it’s never about, ‘They’ve got to do better,’ or ‘They’ve got to do better’ — it’s always, ‘We’ve got to be better.’ And I’m the first one that’s part of that.”
Jordan Clarkson, perpetual “good vibes” guy, even devoted some words to the idea of this team’s players quibbling with and sniping at one another when things start to go wrong.
First off, he downplayed the idea that the five-game losing streak — which probably doomed the Jazz’s chances of having any home-court advantage in the postseason — was anything more than five losses that just happened to occur consecutively.
“There’s not a sense of panic with this team. … You’re gonna lose games in the NBA,” Clarkson said. “All the teams — maybe minus one, the Phoenix Suns — have had that happen to them this year. It’s just part of the season.”
As for avoiding turning on each other when such streaks happen?
That, he said, should be easy.
“A lot of that’s just looking at yourself — what can you do to help the team be better with what you’re doing?” Clarkson said. “If that’s being more efficient, passing the ball, rebounding — just doubling down on your role, whatever it is — that usually takes out the finger-pointing. If you’re holding yourself accountable, nothing else really matters.”
Mitchell endeavored to make some similar points, saying that the Jazz were trying to be even-keeled during the skid, to recognize that while yes, improvements needed to be made because those losses were damaging to the team’s chances of achieving its broader goals, maintaining perspective is also necessary to accomplish that.
The most important lesson of the losing streak?
“The biggest thing,” Mitchell concluded, “is being able to stay together as a group.”