For the entire flight from China back to the United States, Donovan Mitchell had the time to think. What was he going to say when Rudy Gobert brought up the block, the one that knocked Mitchell and Team USA out of the World Cup?
“I prepared it in my head for the whole 13-hour flight home,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
He settled on his stat line.
“I had 30,” Mitchell said. “That’s the only thing I can say. We lost.”
Gobert chuckled when he heard Mitchell’s comeback.
“He had 29,” the Stifle Tower said.
Weeks after the end of the FIBA World Cup, the smack talk between Mitchell, Gobert and Joe Ingles has kept going. But as the three Jazzmen begin training camp, shifting their focus on the goal of winning an NBA title, they believe the time they spent competing for their countries will pay dividends for their club.
“We sacrificed a lot to play the last two months,” Gobert said. “You practice every day while other guys are playing pick-up games, on the beach, with their families. It’s a different kind of focus.”
“We’ll go out there and be ready from the jump,” Mitchell added.
Jazz officials know how much work the trio of stars put in during the summer.
���Joe, Rudy, and Donovan have carried a big load,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said, “which is great for experience and they’re in shape coming into camp.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said his staff will be conscious of potential fatigue but does not believe it will be an issue as training camp begins.
“Those guys, we’re aware,” Snyder said. “I’m in close contact with Mike Elliott and we communicate on that stuff. And those guys all had a couple of weeks to recover and get treatment, and they’re pros. They know how to handle themselves.”
Gobert was the only Jazzman to come back with a medal, beating Australia in the bronze-medal match.
“At the end of the day, he got the last laugh,” Ingles said. “I’ll wait until Tokyo [Olympics] to get my revenge.”
But Ingles, Gobert, and Mitchell each showed their worth on the international stage.
“At the end of the day, [Rudy] came out and just kicked butt,” Mitchell said. “He showed people why he is who he is. Joe almost had a triple-double two or three times in the tournament. It just shows the value of both of those guys.”
Mitchell was Team USA’s second-leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 13.1 points per game. But the Jazz guard said it was his efforts to improve defensively he believes will help him most this season.
Gobert, meanwhile, believes he can be an even greater offensive weapon for the Jazz after leading France this summer.
“I’m able to be stronger with the ball,” Gobert said. “In Europe and FIBA, the game is a little slower and the court is a little smaller. … I learned to finish with contact even more.”
Their attention is all on the start of the NBA season now, but Mitchell, Gobert, and Ingles all hope to be able to participate in next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’d always dreamed of beating the USA in an international tournament and we did it this time,” Gobert said, with Mitchell sitting by his side. “Hopefully we get to do it again.”
Mitchell then looked at his teammate and shook his head.
“No,” he said.