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Rudy Gobert is very much a heart-on-his-sleeve guy, which is what typically makes him such a great interview. Speaking of which, Sam Amick of The Athletic recently got him to do a pretty incredible Q&A — or, alternately, a “Q&A(mick),” as they’ve apparently been dubbed by former @TribJazz and exceedingly-bad pun-master Bill Oram.
The highlights from it stemmed from him talking about how he and Donovan Mitchell rebuilt their relationship following their much-publicized COVID-19 fallout:
“I think it really helped us put ourselves in each other’s shoes. … I think it happened within ourselves first. But then with some articles coming out and some s--- coming out about [the team], all that was before the bubble. And I decided to just tell everyone, ‘Let’s just talk on the phone.’ We can’t be having media and people putting out articles about some stuff, that are not helping us and helping the team. So we just had very honest phone conversations.
“We had a very honest conversation, and that’s all I needed. You know, after that, once I knew that I told him everything that was on my mind and I heard everything that was on his mind, I knew that we could move forward. I’m not going to disclose all that, but I knew that once we [had that conversation] we could move forward.”
Rudy unplugged, Part II
On Thursday night, with the mostly-local media, in the aftermath of the Jazz’s win in Atlanta, a clearly happy Rudy dropped a few more great lines:
• On potentially playing in the not-universally-beloved 2021 All-Star Game: “I think it’s good that there was a conversation. Obviously, it can be a good thing for the fans, for the game of basketball. I think it’s great for the game. At the same time, we all know we’re playing more games in less time, and [this is] the only break that players and coaches are going to have. So it’s good to have the conversation. I think I would love to be part of it, if I was selected. But it is good that we have a conversation for sure.”
• On what spurred Mike Conley’s third-quarter resurgence Thursday: “He’s been in the league for 25 years, so he knows how to control the pace and he can feel the game more than all of us.” (Mike, duly informed of the trash talk and offered the chance for a public rebuttal, laughed, then disappointingly took the high road: “He’s off by about 11! … But, Rudy’s been a big help to me, so I’m not going bash him too much. He’s been a huge, huge help in progressing my play and the team’s play. So he’s still the man, and he can say what he wants.”)
• Asked by a reporter from Puerto Rico-based TAB Deportes to discuss how Jordan Clarkson has affected the team with his sixth man exploits, Rudy attempted to bust out some Spanish: “Tiene un impact fantástico … por esta equipo.” (Roughly, “He has a fantastic impact for this team.”) And when I made note of it on social media, he took it a step further, using a quote-tweet to ask a certain Spanish-speaking former Jazzman to critique his work: “@rickyrubio9 is that good?”
An opposing view of Utah’s voluminous 3-point attack
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, asked before Thursday’s game where to even begin in trying to slow down the Jazz’s record-setting 3-point shooting, gave a pretty awestruck response when trying to put it all in context:
“I think they’re first in corner 3s and fourth in above-the-break 3s. And they’ve got five guys that are shooting over 40% from 3. … They’ve got four guys that have shot more 3-point attempts than Trae Young, who is our leader, and so it speaks to the volume of 3s that they’re shooting.”
This week in Jazz history
Trying yet another new feature. I thought it might be fun to start looking back at some historical Jazz achievements that occurred in the weeklong span between these newsletters. So, for our inaugural installment, we’re looking at Jan. 30-Feb. 5:
• Jan. 30, 2002: Karl Malone scores 18 points vs. Chicago, becoming just the second player in NBA history to register 34,000 career points.
• Feb. 1, 1985: Mark Eaton blocks 10 shots in a 121-109 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
• Feb. 1, 1995: John Stockton sets the NBA’s all-time assists record, getting No. 9,922 on a bounce pass to — who else? — Karl Malone.
• Feb. 1, 2001: Karl Malone grabs the 13,000th rebound of his career, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to record 26,000 points and 13,000 rebounds in his career.
• Feb. 5, 1983: Mark Eaton blocks 12 shots in a 143-136 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
• Feb. 5, 1985: Mark Eaton blocks 10 shots in a 126-106 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
As always, if you’ve got questions you want answered (Jazz, NBA, other sports, beat writer life, rock music, random weirdness) either send me a message on Twitter (@TribJazz) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
• “Where is the ceiling for this team? Can we expect more? Or is this about where they are? And why don’t they feed Rudy more?” — @tdz891
Quite simply, the ceiling for this team is an NBA championship. Not saying they’re the favorites for it — the Lakers, who are the defending champs, and who feature LeBron, Anthony Davis, arguably the deepest roster top to bottom, and the league’s No. 1 defense have to be the faves until someone dethrones them.
And the Clippers and Nets both boast more top-end talent, plus some players with championship experience. The Sixers and Bucks and Nuggets are all up there, too. But these Jazz have two All-Stars, a deep and connected roster, a prolific 3-point attack, and an improving defense. They would need a lot — A. LOT. — to go their way … but if it did, it wouldn’t be totally crazy to envision them hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
• “Who do you think is the best metal guitarist?” — @JasonNatel
I like this one. I’m throwing up the devil horns right now in tribute to your question, Jason!
Anyway, I’m not gonna waste time with some diversion on what defines who is “metal,” because we can all reasonably agree it’s personal preference to some degree. So, that out of the way, there are sooooo many good choices: Dimebag Darrell, Dave Mustaine, Adrian Smith, James Hetfield, Glenn Tipton & K.K. Downing …
For me, it comes down to two guys who played with Ozzy — Randy Rhoads and, my personal choice for the GOAT, Tony Iommi. While the former was just absolute wizard technically, with a penchant for classical harmonies, the latter gets the nod from me for his iconic haunting, discordant, soundtrack-of-doom riffing. Plus, having seen him live, I came away absolutely mesmerized, and completely convinced he was the coolest mofo on the planet.
The Weekly Top 5
In case you missed what this new segment is about, check out last week’s newsletter. As for this week, I’m going with … “Top 5 Non-Hits by Tom Petty.” I never got to see him in concert, which crushed me. But his death did inspire me to dig deeper into his catalogue and to appreciate more of his work. I don’t claim to be an expert or an über-fan (no rare bootlegs in my collection), just someone who can’t go more than a few days without listening to a personally curated playlist.
So, the sole criteria here? It can be solo, or full band, or pre-Heartbreakers outfit and subsequent side project Mudcrutch, or even the superest supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, but nothing that appeared on any or all of 1993′s “Greatest Hits,” 2000′s “Anthology: Through the Years,” or 2019′s posthumous “The Best of Everything” collection. (If you’ve got an idea for a future Top 5 list, again, hit me up.)
1. “Swingin’”: The narrative of the third single from 1999′s “Echo” was tangentially about his marriage falling apart despite best efforts. All I know is, the combination of Mike Campbell’s guitar groove, Petty’s mournful harmonica, and bassist Howie Epstein’s haunting backing vocals were sublime.
2. “Something Good Coming”: This track from 2010′s “Mojo” is simultaneously wistful and hopeful, retrospective and forward-looking. Petty’s acoustic and Campbell’s Gibson Les Paul interplay beautifully, while Benmont Tench’s understated and nuanced keys subtly propel it all forward.
3. “Lover of the Bayou”: The Heartbreakers’ songwriting is sufficiently outstanding on its own merits that I hate to include a cover, but this Mudcrutch version of the Byrds’ track is just such a free-wheeling, twangy, parade of crunchy, Southern-fried riffage that I can’t help but include it. Each of the solos (from Campbell, Tench, and guitarist Tom Leadon) are exquisite licks in their own right.
4. “Cabin Down Below”: I needed something from Petty’s 1994 “solo” album “Wildflowers,” and kept vacillating between this one and “Crawling Back to You,” which is lovely. Ultimately, I didn’t want another moody, divorce-inspired track, so I opted for the aggressive, lascivious simplicity of “Cabin.”
5. “Something Big”: From 1981′s “Hard Promises,” this is just some classic Petty storytelling — about a lonely guy in a seedy part of town who maybe probably winds up murdered by a sex worker. You know … a tale as old as time, defined here by drawling vocals, simple guitar lines, and fabulous, roiling organ work.