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Rudy Gobert’s reaction to All-Star snub: Frustration, fury, and tears

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson (67) defends against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rudy Gobert started off stoic and defiant on Friday at Zions Bank Basketball Center in discussing having been snubbed from the upcoming NBA All-Star Game.

Many thought he was a lock given his performance — after all, he is averaging 15.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.2 blocks per game, while leading the league by shooting 65.0 percent from the field. He also is leading the league in win shares and defensive real plus/minus.

But he was not picked. And he still can’t quite understand it. And suddenly he was not quite so subdued.

“I was surprised. Obviously, we all know how the league works, the direction the league is heading to. I thought there was a chance I might make it. I was surprised,” Gobert said. “I think it’s disrespectful — I feel disrespected. It’s disrespectful not only towards me, but towards the team, towards the organization, and towards the game.”

It particularly stung, he added, that he was overlooked by the Western Conference coaches, who selected the game’s reserves.

That, he said, sent a hypocritical message.

“All the coaches preach about defense, every day they talk about defense, about what an honor it is to get stops, to win basketball games,” Gobert said. “And when it’s time to vote, they they’re not able to reward the best defensive player in the game.”

Gobert noted that, as a defensive player, he is inherently valued less in a league that has, in recent years, trended heavily toward offense.

He said he understands it, but doesn’t agree with it.

“A lot of kids that are watching — you’re telling them that defense doesn’t matter, that winning doesn’t matter. I don’t think it’s great for the future of the league,” Gobert said. “… Defense doesn’t sell as much as offense, it’s a business. It’s fine. But the game is still about competition, it’s about winning, and even though it’s a business, you still gotta keep that. Every year, it’s getting worse and worse; we’re losing that, and I don’t know where we’re gonna be in 10 years.”

After the announcement Thursday night, Jazz president Steve Starks tweeted his displeasure about Gobert’s omission.

“Rudy deserved to be named an All-Star. Complete non-sense [sic] and we need more integrity and accountability. If coaches vote than [sic] their ballots should be made public,” Starks wrote.

Several of Gobert’s Jazz teammates similarly took to social media to express their bewilderment. Forward Joe Ingles noted “There’s no one like him in the league,” adding the hashtag “#robbed.” Ricky Rubio added, “Rudy is not an AllStar?? I guess defense and winning mean nothing.” Donovan Mitchell tweeted images of he and Gobert helping one another up, along with the message, “Together we will prevail big fella.”

By the end of Friday’s media session, Gobert had recalled the disappointment of watching the announcement live on TNT, and then coming to terms with it. He said his mother called him in tears. He said he composed several social media messages in reaction throughout the night, but wound up deleting them all. And then, at the end, his voice quavered, his hand went to his eyes to wipe away tears, he told the assembled media, “I’m sorry,” he momentarily slumped against a wall, and then he walked away.

Much of the reaction to Gobert’s breakdown was heartfelt, as fans flooded social media with messages of support. But not everyone was quite so kind.

Golden State forward Draymond Green, a three-time All-Star selection who was not picked this year, appeared to mock Gobert in a tweet: “I guess I should cry too… no Charlotte?” adding three tear-faced emojis. His Warriors teammate, Andre Iguodala, also piled on, asking on Twitter, “He gone [sic] cry in the car?” Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas tweeted, “Come on fam you are too big to be crying like that…”

Gobert had previously noted he was a bit embarrassed to even be discussing his snub, noting that Jazz victories are ultimately what’s most important to him. But he also admitted that, being human, he perceived an All-Star bid as an acknowledgement of his contributions to the game, admitting that his ultimate legacy is important to him.

“I won the Defensive Player of the Year — I should have two, by the way; [I was named] All-NBA Second Team. And they still don’t give me the respect,” Gobert said. “I’m always gonna be about winning; I don’t wanna be focused on those things, but at one point, I just would like to get some recognition.”

***

Here is a transcript of Gobert’s media session:

How are you feeling today after not being selected?

I’m frustrated, I’m frustrated. [But] I’m always gonna be grateful for the the good things that I have, the good team that I have, the organization that I have.

What were your initial feelings at the time of the announcement?

I was surprised. Obviously, we all know how the league works, the direction the league is heading to. I thought there was a chance I might make it. I was surprised. I think it’s disrespectful — I feel disrespected. It’s disrespectful not only towards me, but towards the team, towards the organization, and towards the game. All the coaches preach about defense, every day they talk about defense, about what an honor it is to get stops, to win basketball games; and when it’s time to vote, they they’re not able to reward the best defensive player in the game. [Last] year, it’s OK — I was 24, it was my first year really playing well, I thought maybe I’ll make a name for myself, earn the respect. I won the Defensive Player of the Year — I should have two, by the way; [I was named] All-NBA Second Team. And they still don’t give me the respect. I’m always gonna be about winning; I don’t wanna be focused on those things, but at one point, I just would like to get some recognition.

How did you learn you’d been snubbed?

I was watching TV, I watched it on TNT. It’s frustrating, it’s frustrating. Not only for me, but for the game in general. A lot of kids that are watching — you’re telling them that defense doesn’t matter, that winning doesn’t matter. I don’t think it’s great for the future of the league.

Do you feel like defense is valued as much as it should be these days?

No, no — it’s never gonna be. And it’s fine. Defense doesn’t sell as much as offense. It’s a business, it’s fine. But the game is still about competition, it’s about winning, and even though it’s a business, you still gotta keep that. Every year, it’s getting worse and worse; we’re losing that, and I don’t know where we’re gonna be in 10 years. It’s just gonna be a big, old playground. It’s gonna be fun, but the real sense of competition in the game is fading away.

Does this make you value the Jazz even more because they value defense and value all the little things you do?

Definitely. I love my teammates, I love the organization. They gave me the opportunity, and I’m always gonna be grateful for that. Like I said, I’m always gonna be about winning. I don’t even wanna talk about that. I just want people that are paid to talk about it, people that are paid to coach, people who are paid to do their job to do it right. It’s not even about me, it’s just in general.

What did GM Dennis Lindsey say to you about it?

He just said he was sorry. That it was B.S. That he was already trying to find out what happened.

How do you describe the value of being an All-Star?

I mean, it’s my legacy. I don’t want to play for money, I don’t even care about that. It’s just about my legacy. Everything I do, I do it to win. It would be good to get some reward from that. It’s about winning. And they know it — they know what they did. They know.

You held your tongue last night. How many times did you type something up and delete it? How did you stay away from social media?

A few times, a few times. It was a rough night. My mom called me crying. It was tough, but it is what it is.

Why did you decide not to say anything?

I don’t think it was necessary. People that understand know what’s to be understood. People that are in power know what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter.

Do you still hope to be named as an injury replacement?

That would be good, but it’s still not the same as being selected.

Many have suggested you’ll have a chip on your shoulder and look to prove people wrong. But you seem as equally motivated by success.

Yeah, it’s always gonna be that way. I’m sorry …

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