Rudy Gobert had dinner with his old Utah Jazz teammates — then they handed the Timberwolves a loss

Four months after being traded from the Jazz, the center acknowledged there will be some weirdness to facing them for the first time Friday, but that he’s happy in his new situation.

Minneapolis • Having finished his Friday morning shootaround at the bright and sparkling Courts at Mayo Clinic practice facility, Rudy Gobert ambled over to the waiting media scrum, saw the visiting Salt Lake City reporters among the group, flashed a big smile, and asked, “What’s up, guys?”

Not much. Y’know, other than his old team of nine years, the Utah Jazz, coming to town to face his new team of four months, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

By the time the day was over, he’d suffered the ignominy of becoming the second presumably playoff-bound Northwest Division foe to fall to the Jazz this season, as Utah emerged with a 132-126 overtime victory at the Target Center — thanks in part to him missing two late, game-tying free-throw tries.

But before that, he was reflective and introspective. Thoughtful and animated. Grateful for the past, but excited for the future.

He said he wasn’t shocked when Jazz CEO Danny Ainge and GM Justin Zanik made the deal to trade him to the Wolves. Neither was he staggered when they followed up with a complete teardown of the roster.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I knew that the probability was the highest it had ever been in my Utah years,” Gobert said. “I knew Danny had a lot of things on his mind, and was trying to do what he thought was good for the future of the franchise and for the ownership. So I was prepared. Regardless of what was going to happen, I was ready to have my best year and just keep going.”

He was also not bitter that — in spite of being a three-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, four-time All-NBA selection, and longtime pillar of the franchise — he was not seen as part of the future.

“I’m really happy. Really happy. I’m very grateful and I can’t complain,” Gobert said. “And I’m really excited by this new adventure. Everything happens for a reason. So I’m really happy.”

Asked if, in retrospect, he could point to a problem as to why the Jazz never achieved the playoff success they were built for, the Frenchman said there was no singular smoking gun.

Things just don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to or the way you want them to.

“I don’t know if you can really call it a problem. We were really, really good, I just think that sometimes you miss that window,” Gobert said. “It can’t last forever. They had to make decisions. And whether they were gonna keep me or trade me, they had to make a choice. And they made a choice.”

And there are no hard feelings about it on his part.

He had dinner with Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Rudy Gay (”Those guys are really, really good friends”) on Thursday night after they got into town. He said he’s stayed in touch with various people throughout the organization since his trade.

But he also acknowledged that while there would be some emotions Friday night when he facing the Jazz for the first time, it perhaps would be less impactful that it could have been, just given how much sheer change has occurred with his former team.

“A few of the guys are there. It says ‘Utah’ on the jersey, but …” he said, trailing off. “Quin’s not there. It’s a different structure. But it’s still gonna be fun.”

Gobert would go on to finish with nine points, 23 rebounds, and two blocks against his former team, while Jordan Clarkson poured in 29 points, six assists, and five rebounds for the Jazz, while newcomer Lauri Markkanen added 24 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.

He said he has fond memories of his time in Utah, though he declined to pick a favorite, fearful of forgetting or excluding something significant. He noted that the 9 years he spent there are “a big part of my life,” that he’s appreciative of all the ups and downs, going from being a lottery team to a top team in the league.

He’s looking forward to returning to Vivint Arena for the first time when the Wolves come to Salt Lake City on Dec. 9.

“I’ve thought about it a little bit. It’s going to be a powerful moment for sure for me,” Gobert said. “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun. I expect a lot of love from Jazz fans. It’s going to be cool.”

And when asked what he missed most about Salt Lake City, this time he did have a specific answer ready.

“My house! When you get used to something, you lose that little comfort,” he said. “It’s a process, but that’s what life is about. Those moments where you get out of your comfort zone is where you learn the most. I’ve been really grateful for Minnesota and how they’ve been treating me. It’s been great for me.”

When asked by a Wolves beat reporter what the keys would be to Friday’s game, he reverted back to many of the same talking points that SLC reporters and Jazz fans became so accustomed to over the years: being scrappy and physical, touching guys a little more, playing with more physicality, competing from the jump.

As for matchups with specific players …

Well, when Clarkson spoke after Thursday’s practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus, he said that catching up with Gobert was “gonna be dope.” Then he shouted out that buzzer-beating running floater that the center hit in his Wolves debut which made all the highlight reels, while following up with some good-natured teasing: ”He probably watched that 50 times in the locker room! I’m surprised he ain’t sent me the clip yet!”

And finally, Clarkson concluded with a light-hearted boast about challenging the star defender: “If he [guards me] on a switch, I’m gonna try to bust his ass hard!”

Gobert, told of this vow, smiled, arched an eyebrow, cocked his head to the side, paused for a moment, then bent over, unable to stifle his laughter, before shouting out his ex-teammate’s offensive skills.

“I mean, I hope so. I’ll do my best — I’ll do my best to slow him down. It’s gonna be fun to get to guard him,” Gobert said. “Now that you’ve said that, I’m going to make sure I end up on a switch. He definitely has all the tools to give me a few buckets, but I’ll try to make sure they’re not easy ones.”

Sadly, the hoped-for moment never materialized. Perhaps they’ll have to settle things in Salt Lake City.