Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz - Game Four
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 22: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz arrives before Game Four of Round One against the Houston Rockets during the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

With his sights set on a championship, Rudy Gobert says, 'It’s time for me to take it to the next level'

by Aaron Falk

Rudy Gobert has heard his doubters.

They wondered if a lanky kid from France could make it to the NBA, if he could crack a rotation, if he could defend in a league in love with 3-pointers, if he would be a liability on offense.

He has heard it all.

And he won’t be listening anymore.

“I think it’s time for me to take it to the next level and stop putting limits on what I can do,” the Utah Jazz center said. “I don’t know if I’m listening to people that put limits on me, or if I’m just putting limits on myself. But I want to take it to the next level.”

This summer started early for Gobert and the Jazz, and while that disappointed him, it also filled him with a sense of excitement.

“I’m excited about the future,” Gobert said, “and how I and the team are going to get better.”

How much better can Gobert really get? The league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year could very well repeat this season, after once again anchoring one of the league’s top defenses. On top of that, Gobert is coming off the best offensive season of his career. He set an NBA record for dunks. He led the league in field-goal percentage and screen assists.

“Everyone sees me as a defensive-minded guy, but both sides of the court are important,” he said. “If you want to win, you have to be good on both sides. Defense is the thing we can control and bring every night. But I want to be great on both ends.”

Of course, Gobert still wants his second Defensive Player of the Year trophy when the award is handed out next month.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “Winning that award back to back. There aren’t that many guys in history that have done it. It would be great.”

But Gobert wants more than that.

He believes his team took a step forward this season, despite its first-round exit.

“I think we are close, but it’s time for us to take that next step,” he said. “We don’t want to be the team that’s close every year. … We all have to be on the same page and have the same goal in our minds.”

That’s why Gobert was excited for summer to begin.

“It starts in the offseason,” he said. “Not when the playoffs start. It starts right now.”

How much better can he get? How much better can he make his team?

“I think I haven’t scratched the surface of what I can become,” he said. “I’m just excited to have this summer to keep getting better … and be able to take my team to a different level.”

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