Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert arrives for Game 3 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on April 21, 2022, in Salt Lake City. Gobert has been traded by the Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)
Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert stood in front of a backdrop covered with Timberwolves logos as he lifted a No. 27 Minnesota jerseys. Yep, it’s going to take longer than five days to get used to that.
Minnesota held its introductory press conference for Gobert on Tuesday, officially beginning the former Jazz center’s new NBA life.
To the Timberwolves, the trade that sent four players and several draft picks back to the Jazz was an easy decision. The Wolves are a small-market team; opportunities to add an All-Star in the prime of their careers with multiple years still left on their contract don’t come around often. Sure, the price was steep — and you could argue they overpaid — but to them, the risk was worth it.
So after the Minnesota brass lauded Gobert and his game — calling him a game-changing player and a future Hall of Famer — the question was addressed to Gobert: Why would Utah, another small-market franchise, trade you away?
“That’s a good question. I mean, obviously losing (former Jazz coach Quin Snyder),” Gobert began. “Quin was there for eight years; he was a big part of what we were doing. The window for winning is not always big. And for us, in Utah, that’s kind of what happened. I think the organization felt like we had maybe passed that window that we had over the last few years. I think they’re still obviously going to be a very competitive team, but they just felt like with all the assets that they could get with me, it was better for them to go that way.”
Gobert said that in the end, though, both sides could see it as a victory. The Timberwolves hope to compete for a title right now, and Gobert will certainly help them do that. The Jazz, meanwhile, gained more options for their future.
“I think it could potentially be a win-win situation,” Gobert said. “They also put me in a great situation to win. And for me, that’s why I’m really grateful for that. They put me on a team where I can keep flourishing and hopefully win a championship. And then for them, I really hope that they’re going to be able to get better and better and hopefully get to that stage that we were a few years ago. Even though we didn’t get past the second round, we were first in the West — that doesn’ t happen often.”
The three time Defensive Player of the Year realizes that all these major moves come with risk, but he’s thankful that he’s on a team that has a chance to compete at a high level.
“It’s never easy. It’s always speculative. You never know what’s right, what’s wrong, and sometimes you gotta make decisions, and that’s what they did. … I’m grateful they put me in a position to win,” he said .
Gobert admitted he wanted to spend his whole career with the same team; he embraced Utah — regularly giving back to the community through his charitable foundation and also his time. He built a home in the Salt Lake Valley and took immense pride in what the Jazz had built as a team. But, he admitted on Tuesday, there is excitement in something new.
“I’m the type of guy that was thinking early on that it would be cool to spend my whole career in the same place,” he said. “But also, I always wonder how cool it would be to get to a new place and in a new system and a new environment. So it’s kind of like whatever happens, it’s positive.
“I spent nine amazing years in Utah, we built something that was very unique and that is never going to go away,” he continued. “Even though we didn’t win a championship, I think those years were great years in terms of winning. We won the most games in the last four years in the NBA — even though there’s no ring at the end, it’s still a pretty cool accomplishment. All those years and all that grind have made me a better player, and a better person, and now I’m in a situation where hopefully I can take this team to where we want to be. And that’s very, very exciting “
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