Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert provides excellent insight in recent HoopsHype interview

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 6: Rudy Gobert (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 6: Rudy Gobert (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) /

In a recent interview with HoopsHype, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert provided some excellent insight and reasons for optimism about the upcoming season.

A lot has happened this offseason for the Utah Jazz. First they traded for Ricky Rubio in hopes that doing so would help them retain Gordon Hayward. However, unfortunately those hopes were dashed when the former Jazz All-Star opted to join the ranks of the Boston Celtics. From there, the Jazz did their best to recover by adding free agents Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, Ekpe Udoh and Royce O’Neale.

Most recently, they’ve looked to improve upon something that’s been a death knell for the Jazz in recent seasons – injuries – by bringing in a new head athletic trainer and a new vice president of performance health care. All along the way, anticipation for Utah’s upcoming season has been high and the intrigue for how the team will fare without Gordon Hayward has been heavily disputed with some pinning the Jazz as a likely lottery team and others expecting them to still be a postseason threat.

Of course, only time will tell which of those two options will end up being the case. But as the long offseason wait rolls on, one thing that has been a notable reassurance and point of excitement for Utah Jazz fans this summer has been the attitude of Rudy Gobert. He’s had his share of hilarious posts in reaction to the Gordon Hayward situation, folks doubting him and the team as well as other matters, and more than anything he’s appeared to keep an extremely positive attitude about the future.

This has certainly helped fans feel optimistic about the upcoming season and eager to see what the Stifle Tower can do now that he is officially the team’s top dog.

Along those lines, Rudy Gobert recently sat down with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype to answer some questions about this offseason and upcoming year, and provided further exciting insight into his mindset. While the entire interview is a must-read for Jazz fans, I wanted to pick out a few of the questions and answers that particularly stood out to me and put in my two cents on them as well.

The first one that significantly stood out was when Gobert was asked about his offseason goals and what he has worked on this summer, to which Rudy replied with the following:

"“First off, I’ve definitely been working on my body – getting stronger, improving my lower-body strength and working on my quickness. But the main goals on the court are, of course, [improving] my post-game and mid-range shot. Those are my two main focuses.”"

Although Gobert is mostly known for his elite defense and most casual fans discount his offensive presence, he was an absolute force to be reckoned with offensively last season. Gobert upped his scoring average from 9.1 points per game to 14 and his field goal percentage from around 56 percent to just over 66 percent.

He also ended the 2016-17 season third in the league in offensive rating (129.1) and 10th overall in offensive win shares (8.3) which, combined with his stellar defense, helped him finish second in the league only to James Harden in overall win shares (14.3). In other words, while he’s not necessarily what one would call a versatile offensive player, he most certainly was effective.

And if he, as stated in the above quote, is working to include more versatility by adding a diverse post-game and mid-range game to his arsenal, then it should help make Rudy all the more deadly on that end, which is something the Jazz will desperately need as they look to make up for the 21.9 points per game Hayward produced for them last year.

Gobert already showed better catching ability and control around the basket as well as flashes of solid dribbling, so if he’s able to take those skills a step further next season, he could truly develop into quite the weapon. Just imagine if Gobert were to add a reliable 8-10 foot jumper to his game that would at the very least keep defenders honest and allow him more space to then charge to the hoop after a pump fake.

Depending on the strides he makes in those regards, we could be in for an even more effective and significantly more sophisticated offensive Rudy Gobert next season.

The next Q&A pair that really stood out to me was when Gobert was asked about if he felt that he was snubbed for not winning either the Defensive Player of the Year or the Most Improved Player Awards. Of course, as always, Rudy was very coy about his feelings on the matter and avoided making any remarks that could have been perceived as complaining or bitter. Instead he simply focused on how much he wants to continue to improve:

"“No matter what, I want to keep getting better and winning. When you play in a smaller market, you have to do three times what the guys in the big markets do. That’s okay; I’ve learned that. It’s fine though because I’m just focused on this team and winning games.”"

Although it would definitely mean a lot to Gobert to win an award such as Defensive Player of the Year, he has consistently made it clear that personal accolades are not his end game, rather it’s to help lead a team to the ultimate reward and honor – an NBA championship. His team-first attitude expressed here is certainly an important piece to the puzzle of hopefully one day being able to achieve just that.

However, what stood out to me the most about this response was his admission that he understands that small market guys have to do three times what the guys in big markets do to get noticed. Maybe it’s the perpetual small market fan in me, but I absolutely love that recognition. Rudy’s quickly won Jazz fans over with his expressed loyalty to the Jazz, his dedication to always giving his all and his chip-on-the-shoulder mentality.

And stating how important it is for him to go above and beyond the average player on national TV every other night is a cool sentiment that fits with those aforementioned themes. Gobert has clearly relished his time in small market Utah and is more than willing to put in extra work to make sure both he and his team thrive regardless of any outside opinions or personal recognition.

Another cool response he had also happened to be one of his shortest and is one I mentioned in a previous piece about Rudy Gobert from last night. When asked what his message to potentially frustrated Utah Jazz fans would be, he had the following concise but on-point answer:

"“I would tell them to stop arguing with the less-intelligent people on social media and just wait for this season to start. Just wait.”"

This is absolutely spot-on. Jazz fans should remember that many of the same people doubting the Jazz this offseason are likely the same ones who didn’t have the team pinned as reaching any sort of heights in 2016-17, which absolutely was not the case as they ended up advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The Jazz still have plenty of talent and depth to make some noise in the West even with Hayward gone.

Combine that with an excellent coach and a remarkable and determined leader in Rudy Gobert and this team could very well be a sleeper once again. Losing Hayward hurts and is going to take some adjustments, but just because folks who didn’t pay any attention to the Jazz last season and don’t understand how good the other parts of the roster can be are counting Utah out, it doesn’t mean that fans should buy into their doubt or put stock into their criticisms.

As long as Gobert is on this team, he’s going to give the Jazz a fighting chance with his defense and determination alone. If he improves even more and can count on the incredible depth around him as well, then the Jazz could truly be in for a surprising 2017-18 campaign.

Last of all, perhaps the answer that was the most reassuring and eye-opening (and in fact a portion of it became the title of the piece) was when Rudy was asked if he’s looking forward to showing that the Jazz are still a contender. In response to that inquiry, he said:

"“Our identity hasn’t changed; our goal hasn’t changed. We’ve had a few changes; Gordon [Hayward] left. George [Hill] left. We have some new point guards, new wings and new rookies so it’s going to be a different group, but the identity will stay the same. The identity doesn’t change. We’re going to continue to be one of the best teams defensively.”"

Once again, Rudy clearly hit the nail on the head. It’s awesome to hear him say that the Jazz’s identity isn’t going to change despite a relatively vast array of new faces. A successful system and culture are both already in place in Utah. The Jazz are still going to play suffocating defense, they’re still going to share the ball on offense and they’re still going to play the game and build the team the right way.

In other words, rather than hang their heads about the upcoming season, Jazz fans should be exhilarated. There will certainly be a lot of new facets to get accustomed to, but Utah should still be a formidable team. Rudy Gobert is a rising star with the green light to be the face of the team. Quin Snyder is an exceptional coach who has proven to be a wizard at maximizing the talent that he has.

Last of all, Dennis Lindsey has done an exceptional job of putting the team together for next year and establishing a solid plan for a couple years down the road so that the Jazz have the financial flexibility to make a splash in the not so distant future. This is a team that will continue to thrive and compete despite a perceived setback this offseason.

Next: If playing the Utah Jazz is like visiting the dentist, Rudy Gobert is the one giving out root canals

If nothing else, Rudy Gobert’s optimism and reassuring responses ought to be encouraging to Jazz fans. He’s proven himself as an absolute stud for the Jazz in several ways and he’ll get an even more expanded opportunity to show that off during the upcoming season.