The Utah Jazz swindled the Denver Nuggets on draft night back in 2013 when they traded away cash and the rights to Erick Green (who would later on sign a 10-Day with the Jazz just last season, trivia, I know . . . ) for Rudy Gobert. Gobert is bad news for the rest of the league already. And he’s getting badder. The 24 year old is going into his fourth year in the league, one he is devoted to conquering.
The Gobzilla just posted this, and man . . .
Can't wait. pic.twitter.com/B0OQp2nwXo— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) September 7, 2016
. . . he is so “swole” that his back isn’t going to get tired carrying the NBA’s most savage defense for 80+ games this season. He’s frankly a specimen. Biologists and artists alike can learn so much by just seeing this guy with his shirt off. (Are we not doing #pause anymore? I didn’t get a clear ruling on that one.)
All of this reminds me of seeing him at the NBA Draft Combine so many years ago. MyLo was the one who interviewed him (you know, the one of us who isn’t a French speaker, yeah, we really planned it out well), but I think he left a bigger impression upon me. First of all, he was participating in everything the coaches at Attack Athletics (now the Harrison Street facility) — and doing so on a foot so jacked that he would require post-draft / pre-summer league surgery. So keep in mind what he did out there (specifically in terms of speed) he was doing with an injury no one knew about.
Second, and more importantly, he wasn’t just some big guy. He was smooth, like a jungle cat. Big. And long. And athletic. He couldn’t run fast because of his toe (the one that would need surgery in early July), but that didn’t stop him from using his size like an athlete as opposed to just using his size like an obstacle. He jumped well, even with the bum tire. He knew how to move, even if he was doing it while hiding pain with every step. I’m not getting across the point here, he walks and moves and plays like any fluid, coordinated athlete . . . just bigger. Like a proud African lion who grew up in the wild, vs. a lion in a zoo who couldn’t ever be the master of his domain. He wasn’t gangly of gaunt. Gobert didn’t grow so big being somehow sheepish about his size.
N.B. In the interview with Gobert by MyLo (his first with media that covers the Jazz) he reveals that he grew up playing all sports, as opposed to just being shoe-horned into playing the ones where his height was an advantage.
Third, even with the injury you could see Rudy’s fire for the game. He’s not playing this because it has made him a millionaire. He’s playing it because he wants to dominate the crap out of you. Every single guy he went up against in the 2 on 1 and 1 on 1 drills was pure barbarism. It’s almost as if no one told him he didn’t have to try to dunk every attempt, or block every shot. He changed lay-ups that were gimmies by having great timing and by not giving up on plays, even when the play was designed to have him be beat. Every time he caught a pass within eight feet of the rim he tried to impregnate it, even with a few bodies in his way.
He played with the ferocity that Jerry Sloan used when swearing.
And he did it while being injured. In a medium sized gym. On a humid day in Chicago. Where some dummies from SLC Dunk got their first glimpses of him. After the first center batch on day one Mychal and I agreed that if the Jazz stay put with #14 in the 2013 NBA Draft that they were not going to be upset if they picked Rudy Gobert . . . if he was still on the board by then.
Rudy hasn’t lost that tenacity, savage mentality, predatory ability, or cat-like dexterity. And he hasn’t gotten any shorter in his years. He has gained experience (three NBA training camps, nearly 200 games in the best league in the world, and almost 32 mpg last season). And every year he has worked on his body.
The photo above really shows what I mean. Mark Eaton had height and basketball IQ (timing, instincts, etc). Greg Ostertag had length and mass. Kyrylo Fesenko had mass and strength. Jarron Collins has basketball IQ and a great dentist. Mehmet Okur had touch and toughness. (We’ll never get the full story of his legendary fight in an elevator against Rafael Araujo back when they were repping their countries on the international level in the FIBA World Cup.) (I’m not making any of this up, by the way. It was after this game. And Araujo wasn’t playing because he tested positive for nandrolone. Lots of controversy.)
Rudy has height, length, toughness, and is now really strong. If you add all that to the one thing none of the other Jazz bigs in that list had, athleticism, and you could really have the best center in the history of the franchise. Now, if he starts knocking down threes that would be cool, but ultimately overkill.