It’s the recognition they’ve been waiting for.
On Thursday afternoon, the NBA announced that both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were selected as Western Conference All-Stars by the coaches in the conference. It is the first All-Star selection for both. The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first to report the selections.
Gobert, 27, improved once again this season, putting up career highs in rebounds (14.6 per game) and field goal percentage (68.6%) while averaging 15.7 points per game for the Jazz in 45 games. The Jazz have asked him to do more defensively this season, guarding more frequently on the perimeter, and he’s improved in those spaces as well. The Jazz are 17.7 points per 100 possessions better on the floor than when he’s not, per Basketball Reference.
The 7-foot-1 Frenchman has also impressed with a number of game-saving defensive plays this season, most recently in the Jazz’s win against the Dallas Mavericks, when he blocked Delon Wright’s attempted game-winning layup with under 30 seconds left to go.
Gobert memorably cried after not being named a 2019 NBA All-Star. He also earns a $1 million bonus for being an All-Star in 2019-20.
“When I was a kid, when I said I was going to be a professional player, people were laughing at me," Gobert said. "Then when I said I was going to be in the NBA, people were laughing at me. Same when I said I was going to be an All-Star.”
That all being said, Gobert said he’s not done yet.
“We’ve come a long way. My rookie year I wasn’t playing at all. But I knew if I kept playing hard every day, I knew I could become a very good player in this league," he said. "But I don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface of who I can be as a player.”
Meanwhile, it’s Mitchell’s first time being named to the All-Star team as well. Mitchell, 23, has scored 25.0 points per game this season, a career high. After an offseason spent with Team USA and head coach Gregg Popovich, Mitchell wanted to focus on becoming more efficient. He’s done that, while also reducing his turnover percentage over the course of this season. Mitchell’s been in All-Star festivities before — he memorably won the Dunk Contest in his rookie season in Los Angeles — but this will be his first time being named to Sunday’s game.
“I called my mom immediately. I didn’t expect to be in the NBA, I tell that story all the time," Mitchell said. "And then to not only be here, but to be on a team like this, to be an All-Star and represent my team with Rudy, I’m really excited.”
Mitchell also has been critical in the Jazz’s 32-15 record this season, scoring over 20 points 35 times, and over 30 points 13 different times. He’s been on the ball more often due to Mike Conley’s injury, playing nominal point guard in a starting lineup with Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale and Gobert.
It’s the first time since the 2006-07 season the the Jazz have multiple All-Stars. Then, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur made the All-Star team.
“I’m satisfied for (Gobert and Mitchell) because I know how hard they’ve worked and how committed they’ve been to their teammates,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “They both sacrifice for one another. They’re selfless because they care about winning.”
Besides Gobert and Mitchell, Brandon Ingram, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook were named as Western Conference All-Stars. In the East, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis were named All-Stars.
The 2020 All-Star Game is taking place at the United Center in Chicago, over the weekend of Feb. 14 to 17. The NBA also announced Thursday a change to the NBA All-Star Game format. Each quarter each team wins will earn $100,000 to be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice, as selected by captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The fourth quarter will be untimed. Instead, the first team to get to the score set by the winning team through three quarters plus 24 — Kobe Bryant’s late-career number — will be the winner.
“It might bring out a little more competitiveness,” Gobert said of the format. “I think it needed to be done.”
Captains James and Antetokounmpo will select the two teams on TNT — Mitchell and Gobert could be on the same team, or play against one another — on Feb. 6.