Call it Rudy vs. Refs, Round 3.
After the Jazz’s previous meeting with the Heat, back on Dec. 2 in Miami, center Rudy Gobert ripped the NBA’s officiating as “s---” and “inconsistent,” partly for the late-game shove against teammate Donovan Mitchell that did not get called, partly for his own minor contact with Dwyane Wade that did, and partly for a whole host of other accumulated grievances.
Last week vs. Houston, a pair of highly questionable early foul calls (which some attributed to referee payback for his Miami remarks) had him fuming and ultimately resulted in a single-technical ejection less than 3 minutes into the game.
And now, after Monday’s dispiriting loss in Oklahoma City (the team’s second straight loss) and ahead of the Jazz’s next game against the Heat, on Wednesday at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the big man’s frustrations have escalated again.
Gobert played only 21 minutes against the Thunder due to foul trouble. But while his minutes were limited, his postgame disgust was not.
“I’m gonna watch film; I hope everyone does the same,” he said, referring to game and league officials. “I don’t know. I feel disrespected. I want to play basketball, I want to do my job. We all make mistakes, but … I just want to do my job.”
Gobert picked up two fouls in 5 minutes, 45 seconds of first-quarter action, the second of which drew a reaction of stunned, incredulous disbelief from the Frenchman — even though replays showed he had a handful of Thunder center Steven Adams' shorts at the time. As he headed to the bench, he pantomimed smacking the scorer’s table — a callback to the fireworks against Houston that got him an early trip back to the locker room.
The whistle against the Thunder that sent him over the edge, though, occurred 52.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
As he and Adams jostled for position in the paint, Adams hooked Gobert’s arm and yanked him to the court. Gobert was called for the foul — the third against him in a span of less than 3 minutes. He was incensed not only that Adams went unpenalized for the potentially injurious action, but also because he had to exit the game again with his fifth foul, having somehow been deemed responsible for the takedown.
Further infuriating Gobert was that his animated complaint earned him yet another technical.
Afterward, he threatened that if the refs do not see fit to protect him in such situations, he will have no recourse but to start handling things his own way.
“Tonight, someone grabbed my arm, pulled me down — that was a very dangerous play, and I got called for the foul. So if I gotta do justice myself, I’m gonna do justice myself. And it’s gonna get ugly,” Gobert said. “Hopefully I don’t have to do that. I just want to play basketball.”
He added that he’s tried to give the officials the benefit of the doubt, recognizing that it’s both a thankless and near-impossible task to get everything right.
That said, he doesn’t believe he’s getting any benefit of the doubt in return.
“It’s not easy — being an NBA referee is not an easy job. It’s hard, and there’s a lot of tricks that players do to try to get the calls. I know it’s not easy,” Gobert said. “But when it’s getting dangerous and people are trying to get me hurt, that’s when I can get mad.”
Asked if he’s had the opportunity to address his concerns to the league office and/or the referees’ union, he affirmed he had. However, Monday’s game did not inspire any confidence from him that it has done or will do any good.
“We’ve had a few conversations. But I don’t think it matters to them,” Gobert said. “They’re doing their job, I’m doing my job. But I don’t know. At this point, I don’t know. I just want to play basketball. I just want to be able to play basketball. That’s it.”
JAZZ VS. HEAT
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV • ATTSN
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 13-15; Heat 11-15
Last meeting • Heat, 102-100 (Dec. 2)
About the Jazz • After winning four of five games, Utah has now dropped back-to-back matchups, against the Spurs and Thunder, respectively. … The Jazz trailed by as many as 29 points in Oklahoma City, but the bench outscored OKC 38-23 in the fourth quarter to narrow the final gap to single-digits. … Ricky Rubio led Utah the last time around, totaling team-highs in points (23) and assists (six).
About the Heat • Barring an unexpected NBA Finals matchup, this will be the final game in Salt Lake City for Dwyane Wade, who has announced he will retire at season’s end. … Wade clinched the victory in the teams’ previous matchup, hitting two go-ahead free throws with 3.2 seconds left. … Miami is coming off a 108-105 loss against the Lakers on Monday night.