Rudy Gobert Has Every Right to Call Out Utah Jazz Teammates

Mar 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce (34) and center Marreese Speights (5) defend Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) as he drives to the basket in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Clippers won 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce (34) and center Marreese Speights (5) defend Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) as he drives to the basket in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Clippers won 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had some strong words about his teammates following Saturday’s loss to the Clippers. And he’s absolutely justified in saying what he did.

There was a lot at stake in the Utah Jazz’s recent game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday afternoon. But if you didn’t know that ahead of time, you would have never have guessed it by watching the play of the Jazz.

From the get-go, there was an obvious lack of focus and energy and the Jazz fell behind big right away as they trailed 28-14 at the end of the first quarter. And the problem wasn’t just that shots weren’t falling (though that most certainly was a problem), but rather that the Jazz looked absolutely disengaged and uninterested throughout most of the game.

The Jazz did pick it up significantly in the third quarter, bringing the team all the way back to tie the game near the end of the period thanks to a 20-6 run. However, the uninterested play picked back up again right away in the fourth quarter as the Clippers cruised out to an 8-0 run to start the period and at that point the game was all but over.

Not so coincidentally, that run just so happened to take place while Rudy Gobert was on the bench.

Rudy Gobert has been on an absolute tear of late. In the game against the Knicks he put up a career-high 35 points while adding 15 rebounds and an astounding four blocks. And while his outing this afternoon wasn’t quite that prolific, he still managed to follow up his career performance well as he led the Jazz in scoring with 26 points while grabbing 14 rebounds and logging a pair of blocks.

However, while Gobert’s stats have obviously been impressive of late and were once again today, perhaps what’s been even more crucial about his contribution to this team is that he’s been one of the few guys to simply bring it every night.

It’s been noted recently that, unlike some big guys who join the sport mainly because of their height, Rudy Gobert plays basketball simply because he loves the game of basketball. That has shown night in and night out and his passion, hustle and determination are always in full display.

Does he make some mistakes? Sure, everybody does. But those errors are much easier to overlook when a guy is giving it his all as Gobert does so regularly. I wish I could say the same about the majority of his teammates…

And apparently, I’m not alone in that thinking. Now, I won’t necessarily say this is good news given that Utah has appeared to be a cohesive group with great chemistry all season long, but following today’s loss, Rudy had some strong words to say about his team’s performance:

"“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … 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.”"

Gobert pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. There’s no way of avoiding what is the cold, hard truth. Today, and in other recent contests, there have been Jazzmen that simply have not come to compete.

His comment about guys thinking only about scoring rings true as well as Utah’s notoriously stout defense has taken a significant slip in recent games. Despite giving up just 96.7 points per game on the season, Utah has surrendered 107 or more in each of their last three contests and has a dismal defensive rating of 112.3 over that span.

So, to be quite honest, it’s somewhat alarming to hear Gobert call out some of his teammates, especially when this is the time more than ever that Utah needs to be clicking and peaking for the postseason, not pointing fingers and squabbling.

Nevertheless, at the same time, I feel like he said what needed to be said. The Jazz simply don’t look right and aren’t playing well and the issues need to be brought to the forefront.

Obviously, there’s no way to know with certainty who exactly Gobert was referring to, but the second I heard his quote, a specific instance from today’s game with a specific player happened to pop into my mind. With about four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rodney Hood dribbled into the paint (like he so often does) and was well-defended, but rather than look to pass he took a contested shot (as he also so often does) that he missed.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, rather then get back on defense Hood then went on to complain to the referees, begging for a foul. Of course, their opinions weren’t swayed and he picked up instead, what I thought, was a well-deserved technical foul. The Clippers then cashed in on the technical free throw, and while the game was likely well over by that point anyway, Hood’s outburst certainly didn’t help the Jazz’s momentum or comeback efforts.

There’s a right and a wrong time to get a technical and usually it’s up to the coach to make that call. For Hood, that moment certainly was not the right time.

Anyhow, while Hood surely can’t be the only culprit that Gobert might have been referring to, Rodney’s lackluster defense (a.k.a. unwillingness to compete), insistence on shooting more often than not, even when it’s not the best decision, tendency to complain about calls and, quite frankly, his selfish attempts at play-making all seem to fit the description in Rudy’s rant.

However, especially in today’s contest, there were several guys that could have fit that bill. George Hill’s decision making was atrocious and it was evidenced by a 4-of-11 shooting outing and a plus/minus of -29. Boris Diaw and Alec Burks, who quite frankly have been a disappointment all season long, maintained that trend as well.

Though I would be surprised if Gobert was referring to either Joe Ingles or Gordon Hayward, both of them had off games, too, but perhaps most alarming was Hayward’s poor body language that screamed that something was off even in the early goings of the contest well before he exited the game with an apparent knee injury.

However, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t important who specifically Rudy was thinking of when he said those harsh words, “some of us don’t compete.” The reality is that the truth of his statement goes without saying as things obviously aren’t completely well in Jazz land.

And to be quite honest, while some folks don’t like when a player speaks out like Gobert did, I believe he is absolutely justified in doing so. As I mentioned earlier, he has turned into the heart and soul of this team. He brings effort and energy every night. He’s more than earned the right to speak out on what’s an obvious problem.

And for a guy who plays with that kind of passion and drive to win, it has to be beyond frustrating to see others on his team take a nonchalant approach to the whole thing, especially with so much at stake.

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Hopefully Rudy’s words will have a positive impact and by bringing these issues to light, Coach Snyder and Co. can work out a solution to the problem (whether through a change of attitude or a change in the rotation, whichever is necessary) to ultimately make the Jazz better for it.

Because as it stands right now, it’s apparent that Rudy Gobert understood how big Saturday’s contest was and how important the rest of the games down the stretch are going to be, but to be completely honest, I’m not sure that all of his teammates do.

Thus if Utah hopes to end this season on a high note and avoid a potential disaster with a critical free agency period looming this summer, then that’s a problem that absolutely has to be reversed. And if it takes Utah’s most consistently engaged player, Rudy Gobert, speaking up to get it properly addressed, then so be it.

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