In the last 11 games, the Jazz have gone 7-4 — and that’s been without their all-NBA center.
On Monday morning, the team confirmed that Rudy Gobert will be available to play tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards, bringing back the team’s chief rim-protector and franchise big man just in time for a tough December schedule.
After missing more than three weeks with a bone bruise on his right tibia, Gobert is not 100 percent healthy: He was wearing a knee brace as Monday’s shootaround session wrapped up, and coach Quin Snyder said he’ll be on a minutes restriction (not specifying the length). But it’s encouraging news for a team that has been racked with injuries since the season began.
“He’s worked his tail off,” Snyder said. “Rudy’s never been a stranger to hard work — that’s one of the reasons he’s improved the way he has, and he’s approached his injuries the same way.”
An All-NBA center last season, Gobert has averaged 13.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 12 starts, but missed the last 11 games after Miami’s Dion Waiters dove into his legs in a loss to the Heat on Nov. 10.
While the Jazz (12-11) initially struggled losing four of the next six games without Gobert, the team has since won five straight games by an average of 19.4 points. In particular, veteran big man Derrick Favors is playing one of the best statistical stretches of his career moving to starting center: He’s averaging 16.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg while Gobert has been sidelined.
Favors told the media right after Gobert’s injury that he hoped to prove that he’s still a capable player after suffering numerous injuries in the past few seasons. On Monday morning, he said he feels like he’s achieved that goal, but is still ready to fill any role that might be waiting for him when Gobert re-enters the lineup.
“I think I did a good job,” he said. “I’m prepared for anything. If they want me to go back to the 5, I’m at the 5. If they want me at the 4, I’m at the 4. I’m pretty much prepared for whatever [Snyder] wants.”
In other injury news, team leading scorer Rodney Hood (17.7 ppg) will miss his third straight game with what the Jazz have termed “ankle soreness.” Snyder said he had full faith in his medical staff and Hood that they are doing everything they can to get Hood back on the floor.
Raul Neto, who missed two games with hamstring soreness, is also available to play.
The Jazz are looking to continue their longest winning streak of the season, now at five games, with a winnable game against the John Wall-less Wizards (12-10). It’s exactly the kind of game that will get more rare as December marches on: Nine of the next 12 games after this one for the Jazz are on the road.