Following the three scrimmages that mark the kind-of return of the NBA, it’s clear Rudy Gobert is trying to elevate himself, a worthy effort and a necessary one given the summer the 28-year old went through that brought him low.
Not only did the Stifle Tower contract the dreaded COVID-19 virus, which ruined his sense of smell for months, he had to endure targeted hate from fans trying to vent their frustration over a suspended season, all because he caught it first and the league shut down immediately after. As if that weren’t enough to make a bad summer, Adrian Wojnarowski then waved Gobert’s dirty laundry like a battle flag, letting the whole world know that Gobert didn’t have a perfect relationship with his coworkers.
Nearly five months later, Gobert is able to smile while being asked yet again about how things are going between him and his fellow All-Star teammate, Donovan Mitchell.
“People didn’t have much to talk about for four months,” Gobert said. “Now that we’re back playing, I think it’s time to put it behind. I get asked about [my relationship with Mitchell] every day. I can understand. But I hope there are some more interesting topics now.”
Even if others haven’t moved on from the spring drama (pretty much all the articles with him in the headline, including this one, are still bringing it up) Gobert’s play on the court is starting to do the talking he wasn’t able to do while quarantined and away from his teammates.
After shaking off the sluggish start that resulted in a loss to the Phoenix Suns in Utah’s return to basketball, Gobert has led the charge, in limited minutes, for two straight wins over a couple of Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Heat and Nets. He topped 20 points against both squads (21 against the Heat, 20 versus the Nets) with healthy rebounding totals to pair with his scoring. Those efforts made him an overall +19 in the two contests, the highest of any Jazzman.
In regards to teammate chemistry, well, Mitchell and Gobert have been connecting just fine on the court, with the former tossing three alley-opp assists to the latter against the Heat. Mike Conley has also been in on the Salt Lob City action with Gobert.
Of course, no discussion of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year would be complete without talking about his impact on that end of the court. He’s fine.
Rudy Gobert DENIES Tyler Herro at the rim and stares him down. pic.twitter.com/2hMBU0bRoW— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 25, 2020
In non-highlight terms, Utah’s defense, anchored by Gobert as always, has been perfectly fine, averaging just 102.3 points allowed per game and are one of just two teams, along with the Los Angeles Clippers, to have not allowed a single opponent to reach 110 points during any of the scrimmages.
The real challenge begins tomorrow with the real restart of the season. Gobert will have to face former teammate Derrick Favors in battle along with the pesky New Orleans Pelicans. This game will be the opening act of the resumption of the NBA, and while the basketball world will largely be watching to see if rookie sensation Zion Williamson is out there, Gobert will be playing at redemption for wrongs he was never guilty of.