Rudy Gobert anticipating “a lot of emotions” in Utah’s return
Rudy Gobertwhat he expected to do Utah home throughout his NBA career, is looking forward to returning to Vivint Arena for the first time as a member of the visiting team when his The Minnesota Timberwolves play jazz on Friday night.
“There’s probably going to be a lot of emotions, but I just want to enjoy the moment and get a win,” Gobert told ESPN while driving to the airport for the Timberwolves’ flight to Salt Lake City. “I spent nine years of my life there and created a lot of memories, I have a lot of very powerful relationships with people that I love and they gave me a lot of love over the years. It will be strange to walk into the arena and go into the dressing room of visitors, but it will probably be a lot of love and a lot of joy to return.”
Gobert developed from a slim draft pick as the No. 27 overall pick in 2013 to a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and four-time All-NBA selection during the his tenure with the Jazz. Utah made the playoffs the past six seasons and had the NBA’s best regular-season record in 2020-21, but the Jazz never advanced to the conference finals.
New Utah CEO Danny Ainge chose to close that chapter in Jazz history, which he made clear by trading Gobert to Minnesota in a blockbuster deal that shipped key contributors. Malik Beasley, Jared Vanderbilt and novice Walker Kessler as well as four future first-round picks in Utah. Gobert has no hard feelings about how his tenure with the Jazz ended.
“Going nine years, obviously, there’s something I’ll never forget, but at the same time, you always have to be aware that it’s a business,” said Gobert, whose Rudy’s Kids Foundation remains active in Utah as well as the his native France and now in Minnesota. “That’s the way I see it. My dream was always to bring a championship to Utah. Some people didn’t think it could happen, and that’s fair. It’s totally fair. It’s part of their job to do what they think is best. the team.
“I’m in a different place now, but that doesn’t change the human side of it. When I say that, I think it’s bigger than basketball. I gave my soul to this team, this city, this organization, my blood, sweat and tears, [and] there are things that go beyond the business of basketball. That’s why I [thought] we would be here forever Now I’m in a new place with an opportunity to achieve great things, and I’ll always be grateful for those nine years in Utah.”
The Jazz, who switched All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers and starting forward Bojan Bogdanovic to the Detroit Pistons later this past summer, they have been one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises. Utah was projected to be a lottery team in the first year of a rebuild, but the Jazz are sixth in the Western Conference standings with a 15-12 record.
“I’ve been really happy to see them succeed,” Gobert said. “Most people counted them out after me and Donovan were traded, and Bojan as well, but there’s still a lot of talent in this team. You can tell they’re having a lot of fun, and when they’re not you do. You have high expectations, you play free. I think that’s what’s happened to them. They play together, they play free, they play really hard. When you play like that with the level of talent they have, good things happen. .”
Minnesota, meanwhile, is 11th in the West with a 12-12 record. The Timberwolves struggled to adjust to playing Gobert on the sideline Karl-Anthony Towns in an oversized frontcourt before Towns suffered a calf strain that is expected to sideline him four to six weeks. The Wolves have won two of the three games since Towns’ injury, including Wednesday’s win against the Indiana Pacerswhen Gobert had arguably his best performance of the season with 16 points, 21 rebounds and two blocks, including a game-winning shot with 11 seconds left.
“I’ve been enjoying the process so far,” said Gobert, who is averaging 13.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, all declines from recent years. “Obviously there’s some adversity, but that adversity is nothing I didn’t expect coming into a new situation with a younger team – all the things you have to go through when there’s change, you change scenery and you’re in a new place. after nine years. I’ve been embracing it, and I’m really excited about our team. I’m really excited about our growth. I know that growth will translate into a lot of wins this season.”
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