Philadelphia • On Wednesday night, Rudy Gobert got accused of being pretty overrated by a team he helped decimate by 32 points, simply because he didn’t spend the entire game matched up exclusively against a certain high-scoring center.
On Thursday night, Gobert did get deployed against another certain high-scoring center. And by the night’s end, he was once again on the positive side of yet another blowout result.
After Gobert registered yet another monstrous performance and the Utah Jazz pulled off their second straight rout and their sixth consecutive victory, this time at the expense of Joel Embiid and the Sixers, his teammates and coach expressed befuddlement at the insults and criticisms constantly being lobbed his way.
Joe Ingles flat-out laughed about the comments made by Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, specifically, how Gobert didn’t scare him or anyone else, and that he wasn’t even as good a rim protector as the Mavericks’ Kristaps Porzingis.
“I mean, I don’t understand. For Edwards to say that Porzingis is more intimidating than Rudy is hilarious. They obviously don’t watch enough basketball,” said Ingles. “Maybe Porzingis blocked him one time or something. I don’t know. … It’s bizarre to me.”
The Jazz had good cause Thursday to extol the virtues of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
In his latest matchup with fellow All-NBA center Embiid, Gobert pretty much kept pace in scoring (17 points vs. 19), more than doubled-up his counterpart in rebounds (21 to 9), shot over 50% himself while Embiid made fewer than half of his attempts, and overall was pretty central to Utah’s 118-96 victory.
The Frenchman said the Wolves’ comments did not provide him any extra motivation against the Sixers. He knows how he’s perceived, and is more focused on simply winning.
“It’s not the first time people have taken shots at me for no reason. I come in every single night to help my team win, and be the best Rudy I can be. I never take shots at anyone. I just focus on myself. I think it’s just, when you’re the best in the world at something, people become insecure and try to discredit what you do in some kind of way,” Gobert said. “… It’s more funny than anything. It’s just funny. But it’s part of it. People are gonna try to discredit what I do, what we do as a team. It’s been the same my whole career. I’m just gonna keep winning awards, winning trophies, and hopefully help my team win something bigger than that.”
That said, the Jazz were befuddled by the criticisms from Minnesota’s Patrick Beverley that, as a DPOY, Gobert should have taken on the challenge of defending Karl-Anthony Towns exclusively, mano a mano, as opposed to frequently being matched up against, say, Jarred Vanderbilt, and then being in a position to provide weakside help for his teammates.
Utah’s contingent pretty much considered that a nonsense argument.
“From my standpoint as a coach, every team we play, their offensive gameplan is how to attack Rudy — or not to attack him,” said Quin Snyder. “… He can’t guard everybody — but he tries to. I’d like for him to. Because I think he’s — without getting into all the analytics and advanced stats — I think he’s our best isolation defender, best rim protector in the league. A lot times he doesn’t get to decide who he guards, he’s part of a larger scheme, so if he’s not guarding somebody, that’s on me.”
Gobert added that the goal is not to shut down one individual opponent, but to beat the opposing team.
“I tell Quin I’m cool with guarding anyone. I trust the gameplan. When you win by 30 points, the gameplan is pretty good,” he said with a laugh. “… What people need to understand is we’re not playing a pickup game in the park. It’s not a 1-on-1 game. When I’m out there, I’m not guarding one guy, I’m guarding the whole team. It’s hard to understand for some guys; they get used to just being able to impact one guy at a time. I’m trying to guard a whole team.”
Gobert’s backup, Hassan Whiteside had a monster performance himself Thursday, racking up 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks off the bench. He appeared at the postgame media session alongside Gobert, and speculated that opposing players are constantly throwing shade at Gobert because he’s not a trash-talker, because he’s pretty much never going to get into a war of words, and they wrongly perceive that as potential vulnerability.
“He’s not really outspoken like that, he’s not really saying anything back. He takes the high road a lot of times. Even now. He’s a little different than me — I would have said something back for sure!” Whiteside joked. “He’s like the quiet guy in the classroom — you’re gonna keep trying to talk to him, talk to him.”
Speaking of classrooms, Ingles effectively implied that anyone who doesn’t recognize the importance of what Gobert does on the court really isn’t much of a student of the game, and is spending too much time looking at the wrong things.
“If you understand what you’re looking for,” Ingles said, “it’s clear the impact he makes.”