There generally isn’t much extra motivation needed when facing the Golden State Warriors, a team that’s won two straight NBA titles, three of the last four, and is the favorite to win it again this season.
The Jazz have perhaps a bit more than other teams, successful as they’ve been against the Warriors the past few years. Last season, Utah won three of the teams’ four meetings. This season, they beat Golden State in December, and played arguably their best all-around game against them before that, coming a last-second tip-in from Jonas Jerebko away from being 2-0.
But on the off-chance that Utah’s players require a little extra something for Tuesday night’s nationally broadcast game at Oracle Arena … Well, there’s a possibility they’re aware that the Warriors had three players named to the upcoming All-Star Game to the Jazz’s zero, and that, after Jazz center Rudy Gobert reacted emotionally to the snub, he was mocked by Golden State’s Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
After Gobert took it to the Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge (who also made the All-Star team over him) on Saturday afternoon, teammate Donovan Mitchell suggested that particular matchup meant a little more to the center, and that the upcoming one would too.
“Big fella took that one personally. We’ve got another in Golden State I think he’ll take personally,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s what we all hope to see.”
Gobert, naturally, was coyly noncommittal when asked if there was anything in particular he was looking forward to about the trip to Oakland.
“It’s a very good team,” he responded, with a grin. “Just tying to get a win.”
Told that Mitchell had said he believed Gobert’s performance against Aldridge to be driven by the All-Star slight, the Frenchman relented — though only just.
“A little bit. He’s an All-Star, and people know it,” Gobert said. “And even if he’s not an All-Star, he’s still a very good player. That doesn’t really matter. I have to come out and try to stop the guy that’s trying to put the ball in the basket.”
That company line should should serve him well enough against the offensive juggernaut Warriors.
Of, course, in reality, there’s so much more.
After video of Gobert trying to hold back tears in the wake of his All-Star snub went viral, Iguodala posted on Twitter, “He gone cry in the car?” Green, meanwhile, also posted a mocking tweet, referencing his own All-Star snub by writing, “I guess I should cry too… no Charlotte?”
Green has since doubled down on his criticism during an appearance on the “Pull Up Podcast” hosted by Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum.
“I guess I was just raised a little different. That’s just not OK with me. I’m all for passion and people showing their emotion and all these things, but to cry that you don’t make the All-Star Game is a bit much for me,” Green said. “I can’t get with that. I don’t believe in that. I don’t think that’s cool.”
He went on to add that Gobert’s reputation as a player to be feared may have been damaged.
“Rudy’s a big man, he’s somebody who locks the paint down, he’s an intimidator — you [cry], and you kind of lose some respect from some of the guys that you got to play against,” Green added. “Some guy [who may have feared you] is now looking at you like, ‘Huh? Wait — you crying?’ So even more than anything, that mental edge that he may have had on someone, it takes a hit.”
Gobert seems to have taken it in stride. Asked if he’d seen Green’s Twitter post about him, the center quipped, “As long as he doesn’t post anything on Snapchat, we’re good” — a reference to the Warriors forward’s social media faux pas of publicly posting an explicit video intended to be a private message to an Instagram model.
Meanwhile, he’s got another bit of extra motivation, now — holding his own against former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who joined Golden State in the offseason on a one-year deal following a torn Achilles. Since his return from injury, Cousins has played in 10 games, and is averaging 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals in just 22.9 minutes per game, all the while earning plaudits for taking a Warriors team many had accused of being bored with the regular season to a higher level still.
“He makes ’em even more difficult to guard. You can tell that they understand how to play together. They’re finding him as a screener out on their splits game, playing through him in the post, he can score on the block,” coach Quin Snyder said at Monday’s practice. "He’s a smart player, going to a team with smart players. He fits who they are and what they do because of the intelligence. He’s so physical and he’s so skilled, sometimes you don’t give him enough credit.”
JAZZ AT WARRIORS
At Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
Tipoff • Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. MT
TV • TNT
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 32-24; Warriors 40-15
Last meeting • Jazz, 108-103 (Dec. 19)
About the Jazz • This will be Utah’s final regular-season appearance at Oracle Arena, as the Warriors are set to move in to the brand-new Chase Center in San Francisco next season. … The Jazz have won two straight, and now stand sixth in the Western Conference. … This will be Utah’s final game before the All-Star break. The team’s next game won’t come until Feb. 22 in Oklahoma City.
About the Warriors • Golden State has won four consecutive games, and nine of its last 10. … Forward Kevin Durant and guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be participating in Sunday’s All-Star Game. … Curry ranks third in the NBA with 28.6 ppg, while Durant is fifth, at 27.5.