The Utah Jazz decided to hold Donovan Mitchell out of Sunday’s Game 1 of their NBA playoffs the first-round series against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies despite the All-Star shooting guard’s desire to play.
Mitchell, who missed the final 16 games of the regular season due to a sprained right ankle, returned to practice on Thursday and was not listed on the official injury report until being declared out Sunday afternoon.
The Grizzlies upset the Jazz 112-109 Sunday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said the team’s medical staff made the determination to hold Mitchell out of Game 1 after meeting with him following the morning shootaround.
“Obviously, Donovan, being the competitor that he is, wants to be out there and, hopefully, will be out there soon,” said Snyder, who declined to discuss specifics about the reasoning for the medical staff’s decision. “I think first and foremost in everyone’s mind is our players’ health. They’ll evaluate him day to day, and hopefully, he’ll be back out there soon. Like I said, he’s a competitor.”
Mitchell said in a virtual media availability following shootaround that he had some soreness in the ankle but was excited to play in the Western Conference first-round series opener. He had not yet met with the medical staff.
“I feel good,” said Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game for the top-seeded Jazz. “Always gonna be soreness. I feel good. I’m ready to go tonight. No pain. I’m excited to get going.”
Jazz center Rudy Gobert said he was surprised to learn Mitchell had been ruled out upon waking up from his afternoon nap.
“It was a big surprise. But I try to stay out of all this — it’s just gonna give me a headache,” Gobert said following Sunday night’s game. “Hopefully, he’s good for next game. That’s all I’m worried about.”
Forward Bojan Bogdanovic said that while Mitchell “is our leader and best player,” he didn’t think Mitchell’s absence played a big role in the top-seeded Jazz dropping Game 1.
“We were playing the last 20 games without him, and without Mike [Conley], and we were playing great,” Bogdanovic said. “Of course we missed him, especially in the playoffs. I don’t know what happened, honestly, with the medical staff and him, to hold him out. You should ask him.”
Snyder said Mitchell is considered day-to-day, acknowledging that “Donovan more than anyone” is eager for his return.
“We want to see our guys out there,” Snyder said. “We’re working towards that. In Donovan’s case, he’ll continue to be evaluated, and we’re hopeful that that will be the case soon.”