On social media, Jazz’s Rudy Gobert and Heat’s Hassan Whiteside stoke rivalry fires

Jazz notes • Utah center has occasionally targeted Heat big man on Twitter. But is it for real? Or just Twitter hi-jinks?<br>

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) gets a rebound past Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena Thursday December 1, 2016.

Rudy Gobert is quick to say that his rivalry with Hassan Whiteside isn’t a serious one.

“We only play him twice a year,” he said Thursday afternoon after practice. “He’s on the other side of the country.”

But ahead of the Utah Jazz’s (5-6) home matchup with the Miami Heat (5-6) on Friday night, the social media record says differently. The two centers, compared statistically throughout their careers, have often been at odds on the court as well as on Twitter in the past few years.

In 2016, Evan Fournier assumed a Gobert swipe about players who have good numbers at the cost of their team was about Whiteside. This summer after Gobert compared the Heat to trash in emojis, Whiteside responded with a tweet that compared Miami’s recent titles to the Jazz’s championship record.

After Joel Embiid took a jab at Whiteside in October when the centers went head-to-head, Gobert responded with a GIF of laughter.

“I didn’t get in there,” he said this week. “I was just laughing.”

Gobert’s subtext on social media often seems clear, stoking fires online and sometimes adding controversy. Snyder said that game to game, he wants players to focus on team success more than individual matchups, but as long as they do that on the court, social media prodding isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defended by LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) as the Utah Jazz face the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California, Sunday April 30, 2017.

Synder isn’t on social media himself, joking that it is “beyond the realm.” But he receives occasional updates on his players’ activity — including Gobert.

“Those are all things we’re aware of, but these guys are grown men,” Snyder said. “They have their lives and their personal lives. It’s not my job necessarily to police that.”

For Gobert himself, it doesn’t seem too serious. In an 82-game season, sometimes you have to create your own intrigue. Occasionally chiming in on social media — and trading barbs with other players — can do that.

“At the end of the day, we’re just competitors,” Gobert said. “Basketball is a very serious game, but it’s still a game. Sometimes it’s going to be a little boring, you have to make it fun.”

Long film session, intense practice

The Toronto Raptors had DeMar DeRozan. The Houston Rockets trotted out James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers featured Ben Simmons.

The Jazz realize all three represent tough competition, which has contributed to their currently losing streak. But Thursday mantra after practice wasn’t about the competition.

It was about them.

“We’ve been making a lot of mistakes,” Gobert said. “It’s not about skills. It’s not about how good you are as a basketball player. It’s about focus and communication, and that hasn’t been there.”

The Jazz went through a lengthy film session Thursday morning, breaking down Tuesday night’s home loss to the Sixers. Every mistake, every missed defensive assignment, it was all on display for the Jazz to collectively see.

By the end of the session, the Jazz counted 37 points Philly scored directly from egregious defensive errors, like missing a defensive switch, or a turnover in transition, or not boxing out or closing out to shooters.

“That’s too much,” Gobert said. “If we cut that number down to 20, we win the game easily.”

And that’s what the Jazz want to concentrate on in the immediate future. A catchphrase for coach Quin Snyder is “control what you can control.” It means paying attention to detail, and not beating yourself.

For the Jazz, there’s been too much of the latter, recently. That’s what led to the long film session, followed by an intense practice. The Jazz were in good spirits following practice, and they feel like they ironed some issues out on the floor during the workout. But they do want to see some carry-over to Friday night’s home matchup against the Miami Heat.

“We have to get better,” Snyder said. “We have a lot to do and a lot to get better at. We have to get better in the film room. We have to get better in individual work, and we have to get better in five on five. We’ve just got to get better at everything.”

Heat receive an upgrade

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson - who missed Wednesday night’s win at the Phoenix Suns with the flu - has been listed as probable for Friday night’s game at the Jazz. Johnson, a shooting guard out of Fresno State, is averaging 10.2 points per game. He’s Miami’s leading scorer off the bench.

Heat at Jazz<br>At Vivint Smart Home Arena<br>Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.<br>TV • AT&T Sports Network<br>Radio • 97.5 FM, 1280 AM The Zone<br>Records • Heat 5-6; Jazz 5-6<br>Season series • First meeting<br>About the Heat • Miami has played four straight games on the road, going 2-2 in that stretch. … Opponents are averaging only 47.2 percent shooting inside the arc against the Heat, which leads the NBA. … Six Miami players are averaging between 21 ppg and 10 ppg, led by Goran Dragic (20.2 ppg).<br>About the Jazz • Utah is forcing turnovers on 16.8 percent of opponent possessions, which is second-best in the league, and lead the NBA in steals per game (9.9 spg). … Point guard Ricky Rubio leads the Jazz with 15.8 ppg, which would account for the highest scoring average of his career. … Shooting 62.4 percent, Rudy Gobert has the fifth-highest field goal percentage in the NBA.