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Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert puts up good numbers (with a 9-foot, 7-inch reach)

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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) runs up the court as guard Trey Burke follows behind with the ball during the first half of an NBA Orlando Pro Summer League game against the Miami Heat in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 7, 2013. (Special to the Tribune/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 11 2013 05:48PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:35PM

Orlando, Fla. • When Rudy Gobert stands underneath a regulation basket and extends his arms as high as they will go, he is separated from the rim by less than the length of an average ballpoint pen.

To dunk, he doesn’t have to jump so much as stretch. But when he does jump — look out below.

In the first half of the Jazz’s 79-73 loss to Indiana on Thursday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, a shot went off the back iron and the 7-foot-1 Gobert elevated. At his peak, Gobert’s fingertips were more than a foot higher than Pacers 6-foot-11 center Miles Plumlee. He tapped the ball in for the most impressive, non-dunk putback the game allows.

"I saw the picture," Gobert said after one began circulating on Twitter. "I did not know I was so high. Originally, I wanted to dunk it."

Others noticed.

"He looked like me up there," 6-foot-6 guard Alec Burks joked.

The Jazz traded for Gobert on draft night — giving up the No. 46 pick and cash — no doubt because of his length. But general manager Dennis Lindsey said that night that the team saw more in Gobert than his height, reach (9 feet, 7 inches) and wingspan (7-foot-9).

"You know how big guys can sometimes make the league and not put in the time and effort," Lindsey said, "and Rudy’s a serious pro already and you guys will soon see that."

It was apparent in Gobert’s 11-point, eight-rebound, three-block performance against the Pacers. In addition to the tip-in, he had two putback dunks, a fadeaway baseline jumper, a dribble-and-kick assist to Jeremy Evans, and a polished spin move punctuated with a hook shot — which hit a spot on the backboard out of even Gobert’s reach.

"He did a few more things today," Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe said.

Gobert will return to France after summer league to have minor toe surgery for what has been termed an in-grown nail in media reports but Gobert said was a result of his shoes being too short. He said he will be out two to three weeks after surgery.

With a small language barrier, the Jazz have boiled the game down to its simplest terms.

"The language barrier certainly is going to be a factor," Lowe said. "There are a couple of key words that we’ll get from him, like ‘cours.’ That means run. So, I’ve got that one down, that’s the one I know for sure."

But no language is as universal as rejection, and in basketball terms, that’s something to love.

With a frontline that already includes young stalwarts Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz hope adding Gobert gives them the league’s best young frontline. On Wednesday, they officially added veteran center Andris Biedrins, a clumsy offensive player but a capable shot blocker.

"What you can see already," Lowe said, "is he’s got an effect on the game from the defensive end. … People are starting to look for him now when they go to the basket."

Gobert is still unrefined, something that likely cost him several spots in the draft order. His agent, Bouna Ndiaye, said he expected Gobert to be drafted in the top 10 before a run of less-than-stellar showings at pre-draft workouts.

Gobert, too, heard concerns about himself, namely that he wasn’t athletic enough to play in the NBA.

"I know I’m athletic," he said, "and when I get stronger in my legs, I can get more and more athletic. … I was frustrated, but I was upbeat to fall in Utah."

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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