Okay, for those of you who haven’t been following this, here’s what I’m talking about:
Rudy Gobert: "We've got guys that compete, but some of us don't compete. Some of us just think about scoring.... https://t.co/CKQQ6Uf9m6— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 25, 2017
Some of us just think about scoring. Pretty bold claim there, but an accurate one that could apply to a number of players on the team. I won’t make speculations on who he was calling out here (though I’ve made some on Twitter) except to say that it almost certainly was not Gordon Hayward, as Rudy said this later in the inverview, according to McMahon:
"Gordon is going to be fine," Gobert said. "He's human. There's going to be some games where he don't make shots. I keep telling him to stay aggressive and try to make the right play and everything comes. I think he did a good job in the second half. We've just got to be there for each other."
We can talk about who Rudy is dissatisfied with until the cows come home. We can talk about team chemistry, about who the Jazz FO should get rid of and who they should pay and any number of things, but Rudy’s words tonight made me think about something else: the Utah Jazz finally have a leader.
Yes, Hayward is arguably the most talented player on the team. I still maintain that this is technically “his team,” but the Stifle Tower has that hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs, no-nonsense style of leadership that makes him the enforcer. He goes as hard as he can for as long as he can every game. He started the hashtag #takefnnote. He’s willing to not only highlight the team’s problems, but to work on being part of the solution. When something controversial happens on the court, the other team is going to hear about it from him. Here’s another quote from McMahon’s piece:
"Coach keeps repeating it: We've just got to compete. We're too nice. Those guys, we know they're going to get calls. We've just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight."
Rudy wants to win, and he’s willing to do and say whatever it takes to do that. It’s a cliché used by many players–do whatever it takes to win–but Gobert backs it up.
There are some who might wonder if this is bad for chemistry. That’s a question I’ve asked too, but I’ve ultimately reached this conclusion: who cares? If this affects the locker room in the short-term, perhaps it lights a fire under the guys who “only care about scoring” and helps them get their act together. If it goes more long-term, then the front office knows which guys belong on the team and which ones they can trade or let walk, depending on contracts. The skills that Rudy brings to the table are the most irreplaceable on the team, and it is in the best interest of the Jazz brass to do their best to only hire guys who are willing to play as hard as Rudy Gobert, if not as well as him.
The loss was painful, yes, but I’m in a relatively good mood tonight. The Jazz have an all-NBA leader, and that’s an incredibly positive step for the franchise.