Donovan Mitchell

Will Perdue on Utah Jazz stars: 'It's a relationship that can be repaired'

Will Perdue on Utah Jazz stars: 'It's a relationship that can be repaired'

On Thursday evening, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19 after teammate Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus a day earlier. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jazz players privately said that Gobert had been careless in the locker room and around their belongings. 

Donovan Mitchell has since sent out an update on his Instagram account, thanking fans for wishing him well, and urging people to "behave responsibly" and educate themselves on COVID-19.

 

NBC Sports Chicago's Will Perdue spoke about the relationship between the two Jazz stars on Friday night's Sports Talk Live, saying that he believes the relationship between the two young stars can be repaired.

"Let's just assume that that is correct...[and] Woj reported that correctly. It's immature, it's irresponsible, but it's a relationship that can be repaired because, I promise you, he [Gobert] probably wasn't the only one [being irresponsible or careless] because if he was the only one, then that's also the responsibility of those guys in the locker room to step up and say 'Hey, it's not funny. Cut it out." And if he still doesn't do it, then you report it to the proper authorities and be like 'Hey, this guy needs to be removed from the situation because he's not taking this seriously."

- Will Perdue on the relationship between Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell

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What to watch for: Bulls host the red-hot Utah Jazz in another key matchup

What to watch for: Bulls host the red-hot Utah Jazz in another key matchup

The Jazz roll into the United Center one of the hottest teams in the league, which would make a Bulls win all that sweeter. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Jazz’s last five games (4-1)

  • Dec. 30 — W vs. Pistons: 104-81

  • Dec. 28 — W at Clippers: 120-107

  • Dec. 26 — W vs. Trail Blazers: 121-115

  • Dec. 23 — L at Heat: 107-104

  • Dec. 21 — W at Hornets: 114-107

Storyline(s) to watch

After a tumultuous beginning of the season relative to expectations, the Jazz are beginning to find their tune. They enter the this one 21-12, winners of eight of their last nine and two games removed from knocking off the Clippers (at full strength) in LA. For the foreseeable future, they’ll be without Mike Conley (hamstring), who’s enduring a nightmarish season, but their current lengthy, sharp-shooting starting five of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neal, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert has been shredding opponents on both ends of the floor. Tonight, the Bulls are getting a good team at the wrong time.

Both teams haven’t played since Dec. 30, so fresh legs should abound. The Bulls’ last loss saw them struggle mightily with the Bucks’ length and defensive versatility; well, here’s another team that brings that in droves. The Jazz are, of course, more mortal than Milwaukee, but a win tonight remains a tall order (which, to look at it another way, would make one that much sweeter).

Player to watch: Rudy Gobert

Though Gobert is averaging his lowest blocks per game total (1.9) since his rookie year, his impact on the Jazz’s defense remains profound. When he’s on the floor, Jazz opponents take only 31.4% of the field goals at the rim and a whopping 35.5% from midrange, per Cleaning the Glass’ calculations. 

Even those impressive on/off numbers have tapered a tad compared to his transcendent mid-20s, but Gobert remains an enormous challenge for a Bulls team that likes to shoot around the basket, struggles to do so efficiently and gets shots blocked at an unnatural rate.

 

And all that's without mentioning, he’s second in the NBA in both rebounds per game (14.2) and field goal percentage (68.2%). He’s the exact type of player the Bulls have so often struggled with this season — his performance tonight will be an interesting barometer of the growth of guys like Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford.

Side note: This would be a perfect game to see Wendell Carter Jr. continue to dust off his jumper. The Jazz switch a ton, but prefer to keep Gobert anchored around the basket — if the Bulls decide to try to exploit that, the worst case is a couple missed open jimmies for Carter. The best case (if he makes a few) could be pulling Gobert out from the paint, opening up some driving and cutting lanes. 

Matchup to watch: Pace of play

If the Jazz have their way, this game will be a plodding affair. They rank 17th in the NBA in pace and though they employ a few potentially dangerous transition weapons, they rank 27th in the league in percentage of total points off fastbreak opportunities (the Bulls are sixth in that metric).

Utah has also demonstrated a penchant for turnovers, averaging 16 per game as a team (27th in the NBA). This is the formula for a Bulls win, as it is on all nights: nudge their opponent into errors and run.

Jim Boylen said Kris Dunn will take lead responsibilities handling the dynamic Donovan Mitchell. If Dunn is his typical hounding self and loose balls are flying, the Bulls could find an edge. Speaking of...

Battle to watch: Donovan Mitchell vs. Zach LaVine

This one could be a lot of fun. Mitchell is having the best all-around season of his young career, averaging career-high 25.2 points on improved efficiency, and has moved into a pseudo-point guard role with the Jazz starters in Conley’s absence. Zach LaVine is in the midst of an All-Star push after a month of December in which he averaged 25.1 points a game and shot an impressive 39.3% on 8.4 3-point attempts per game.

Obviously these two aren’t in direct competition for an All-Star spot, but it’s a chance for LaVine to go toe-to-toe with another premiere scoring guard and continue asserting his case. If this one goes down to the wire, a one-on-one showdown between them would be scintillating.

Injury update

Just one: After fully participating in practice on Wednesday, Chandler Hutchison was a full go at shootaround this morning. Boylen called him a gametime decision. 

Based on Boylen’s assessment of Dunn’s role guarding Mitchell, it didn’t sound like Hutchison would unseat Dunn in the starting lineup even if he does play. More to come as the day progresses.

UPDATE:

Chandler Hutchison will NOT play against the Utah Jazz, though he is healthy.

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Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.