Rudy Gobert fielded a number of questions during his first news conference as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. How would he pair with All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns? What did he think of his new start? How far could he take his new team?
And, after six straight trips to the playoffs and three Defensive Player of the Year awards won with the Utah Jazz, there was another question to be answered.
“Do you have a sense of why you’re sitting here? Why Utah was willing to trade you?” a reporter asked.
“It’s a good question,” Gobert replied.
The blockbuster trade between the Jazz and the Timberwolves was made official Wednesday, giving the Timberwolves an All-NBA center they hope will take them to new heights and the Jazz a treasure trove of draft picks and assets as they begin to retool their roster around Donovan Mitchell.
And in his first public remarks since, the 30-year-old Gobert was gracious in his answers and hopes for the futures of both himself and the franchise with which he had spent nearly a third of his life.
“Sometimes the window for winning is not always big, and for us in Utah, that’s kind of what happened. I think the organization felt like that we had maybe passed that window that we had over the last few years,” Gobert said. “I think they’re still obviously going to be a very competitive team. It just felt like with all the assets they could get for me, that it was better for them to go that way.”
With the departure of head coach Quin Snyder and years of frustrating playoff exits, Gobert seemed to understand changes would be made.
“And I think it could potentially be a win-win situation,” he said. “They also put me in a great situation to win. For me, I’m very grateful for that. They put me on a team that I can keep flourishing and hopefully win a championship. For them, I really hope they’re going to be able to get better and better and hopefully get back to that stage that we were” when the Jazz were first in the Western Conference and truly believed they had a chance a title.
“It’s never easy. It’s always speculative. You never know what’s right, what’s wrong,” Gobert added. “Sometimes you have to make decisions. That’s what they did.”
Gobert said he had discussions with his agent in late June in which he was asked about his interest in joining the Timberwolves. His answer after a day of thinking: “It was probably the best, most exciting situation in terms of basketball for me.”
“Obviously, Utah is the only team I’ve played for for nine years. I had some amazing memories and I’m really really grateful for all the time I spent there and all the great relationships I built there. … That is never going to change. But having the opportunity, just the challenge of coming to a team and try to take that team to the next level and just discover a new state, discover a new community, there’s a lot of excitement.”
Gobert added: “I’m the type of guy that I was thinking it would be cool to spend my whole career in the same place — but I also wondered how cool it would be to get to a new place and a new environment. Whatever happens, happens.
“I spent nine amazing years in Utah. We built something that is really unique. That is never going to go away. Even though we didn’t win a championship, I think those years were great years in terms of winning. We won the most games in the last four years in the NBA. Even though there’s no ring at the end, it’s still a pretty cool accomplishment. Now it’s like all those years, all that grind has made me a better player, a better person.”