Rudy Gobert was on the minds of both head coaches ahead of Friday night’s home opener at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
While there’s an emerging narrative that the 7-foot-1 center’s effectiveness is limited by facing opponents that utilize small-ball lineups more frequently, such as Golden State, that didn’t make Warriors coach Steve Kerr any less complimentary about the center’s impact on the court.
“The players have to get used to it, because you’re gonna have shots that you think are there, and he erases them quickly, and you have to get used to that speed and bounce that he has with the length," Kerr said. “Sometimes you have to go into his body if you’re all the way at the rim, or shoot a pull-up before he gets there. And fortunately we’ve got some guys who can do that. So you’ve got to try and take away his strengths, but he’s a great defender and puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Utah’s Quin Snyder, meanwhile, smiled at the suggestion that being recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year might somehow generate some complacency from the Frenchman.
“He’s as hungry as ever. That was a nice award for him and we’re proud of who he is and what he’s done for some time, and for the passion that he has for the defensive end," Snyder said. “Rudy’s growing in a lot of ways still — I don’t think there’s anything that he’s satisfied with. He’s never listened to external expectations for him; everything’s kinda come from him. And he’s used those things to keep growing as a player, and I don’t think he feels like he’s arrived in any way because of that by any means.”
Game recognizing game
At the Warriors' shootaround on Friday afternoon at the Viv, two-time league Most Valuable Player Steph Curry was asked to assess second-year Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
He likes what he’s seen thus far.
“He took an opportunity and ran with it. Obviously, he had an amazing year," Curry said. “He surprised a lot of people, though probably not himself — he was endowed with confidence like that coming in. He was getting better throughout the year. And he wants to take the next step this season. He’s done a lot for the team to make them a winning team and a force to be reckoned with this year. He’s an amazing talent.”
An early test
Though the Warriors beat the Thunder in their season opener on Tuesday night, Kerr was keen to see how his team would do in its road opener against another of the projected top teams in the West.
The Golden State coach said he was anticipating a good test from the Jazz.
“They’re an outstanding team. The thing that I always look for, when you’re talking about the teams that are legit, is do they play both sides of the ball?” he said “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league, and they’ve gotten a little better offensively. They put you through a lot of motion, a lot actions, they’ve got a lot of weapons that can come in with a really deep bench. … They’re a really, really good team.”