Gordon Monson: What corrosive effect could yet-unrealized Rudy trade rumors have on Gobert, Mitchell and the rest of the Jazz?

For the first time in his NBA career, the three-time DPOY is at the center of trade talks. Will he be willing to forgive and forget if nothing ever comes of them?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) fights for the rebound as the Utah Jazz host the Milwaukee Bucks at Vivint Arena, Mar. 14, 2022.

The man is proud.

He’s also a bit ornery and nasty, or as I think the French say it, mechant.

I hope that’s not a swear word.

He has worked hard — enduring at one early stage being shipped off for refinement to basketball purgatory, or, as it is officially known, the Bakersfield Jam — to prove those who doubted him wrong.

He wears, as we all know, the number 27 to remind everyone where he was picked in the first round of the draft, to rub it in the faces of the teams that passed on him for others, for lessers, such as … Anthony Bennett, Lucas Nogueira and Sergey Karasev.

He’s the best defender in the world.

He makes a ton of money, directly in the midst of a $40-million-a-year deal.

He’s always said he loves playing in Utah, his eyes focused on the elusive prize of an NBA championship. When he was asked after being named the NBA’s DPOY for the first time how he felt about certain star players moving here and there to buddy up with other stars to get Larry’s trophy, he said it would mean more to build to the title right where he was, with the guys he already was surrounded by, for the team that believed in him.


As the NBA Draft came and went on Thursday night, amid a thousand rumors about Rudy Gobert getting shipped by the Jazz to Atlanta or Chicago or Timbuktu or any other place/team that would have him, as long as that targeted Jazz trade partner would be willing to toss a few biscuits back their way, Gobert had to endure more humiliation. The team that believed in him enough to draft him — or technically, acquire him after he had been drafted — and to develop him, to give him the chance to demonstrate not just his determination, but his rare abilities, no longer believed he was a good fit here.

He heard the whispers. He knew what was going on. His name was being thrown onto the bargaining table in those multiple directions, the Jazz looking for quality replacement(s) en route to the one thing left that Gobert wanted the most: a title.

You know that whatever Gobert says outwardly moving forward, such rumors deep down had — have? — to bug him, hitting him right in the place that he’s centered his life on since he was an unusually tall, gangly, spectacles-wearing kid, and even more as a professional athlete.

It’s the fuel in his motor, the energy in his motivation.

His self-esteem, his pride, his … plume.

So, what happens now if the Jazz, just like Thursday night, don’t trade him, aren’t able to trade him, after so much chatter in the wind?

How will he react? How will he really react?

Will he still want to play hard for the Jazz? Will he demonstrate the same grit at the defensive end, sacrificing himself for the betterment of the team and his teammates, rebounding their misses, setting screens to clear them, stepping up to cover their defensive blunders? Or will there be just a nanosecond of hesitancy to give every last bit of effort for the good of a team — and even worse, teammates — that wanted him gone?

Beats me.

And it might get the Jazz beat.

Gobert’s a professional. He understands that trades sometimes are part of the business. As dehumanizing as it might be, no matter how many individual monuments to individual achievement he has in his trophy case, when it comes to competition, he’s a commodity.

All the backslaps he’s received in the past from a team and teammates who have depended on him as an eraser for their own deficiencies could, at least slightly, fade away and be less warmly accepted. And some of the past strife, the hurt feelings that emerged in the locker room by way of the big man’s bluntness, could become exacerbated.

If so, what then?

There will be no tears shed for Rudy Gobert, not with him pocketing the huge amounts of money flowing his way, and he’s bound to be aware of that.

Many other accomplished players who have been traded or used as trade bait have gone on to thrive another day. It happens. But sometimes that process leaves a corrosive effect. If Gobert is subsequently moved out, he’ll use that as motivation, too, to show the basketball planet what a stupid mistake the Jazz made.

But if he stays, will he forget all of this and forgive them?

The latter is more likely than the former.

Either way, the Jazz will get their answer, as will another star on the team who might have been eager for Gobert’s exit.

It could be one of the most compelling aspects — second only to the ongoing potential for a major trade that did not happen on draft night — swirling around a season that remains three-plus months away.

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