Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

'He's an All-Star'—Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert makes a statement in win over the Dallas Mavericks

by Aaron Falk

To the unfamiliar and uninitiated, Rudy Gobert might have looked beaten. Twenty feet from the basket. A quick move from a quick guard. A 7-footer suddenly facing the wrong direction, as Dallas’ Delon Wright started driving to the hoop.

“I was spinning around,” Gobert admitted later.

But anyone who has watched the Utah Jazz this season, seen Gobert patrol the paint, seen him dance step for step with guards on the perimeter, had to know not to doubt the big man in crunch time. So with 24 seconds left and his team clinging to a 2-point lead, Gobert took three giant strides toward the rim, timed his jump and smacked Wright’s shot off the glass.

It was a statement play in a statement game for Gobert, who carried the Jazz to a 112-107 victory over the Mavericks on Saturday afternoon.

“There’s not much else to say about Rudy,” Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic said. “Every single game he’s a game-changer for us.”

Gobert’s teammates raised two fingers in the air after the block, saluting the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. But after the star center’s performance against Dallas, his teammates said that salute may not be quite good enough.

“He’s an All-Star,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said.

“He is playing on an MVP level right now,” Bogdanovic added. “Not just DPOY.”

Gobert is having a career year for the 32-13 Jazz, and he was nothing short of sensational Saturday against Dallas. Utah struggled early and might have found themselves in real trouble, if not for Gobert.

“I thought he kept us in the game in the first half,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “… Then I thought everybody raised their level to his level on the defensive end in the second half.”

The center scored 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting. He grabbed 17 rebounds. He blocked five shots.

“I thought I had like three open layups and he came by and I didn’t’ see him coming at all,” Dallas star Luka Doncic said. “He’s just tough to play against.”

Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said he believes Gobert will add to his trophy case this summer.

“He’s probably going to be the Defensive Player of the Year again,” the coach said. “He impacts the game massively at the defensive end. He doesn’t just do it around the basket, he does it on the perimeter too on switches. … Look, he’s a great, great defensive player.”

Gobert has another trophy on his mind, though.

“I appreciate it,” Gobert said when told of Bogdanovic’s MVP remark. “I think for me, it’s just winning. That’s the No. 1 thing. How can I help my team win? DPOY is great. It’s an award, it’s hardware. It’s great for your legacy. MVP would be too.

“But at the end of the day, winning, winning a championship brings all of that. We’re winning because we’re playing well as a team. I’m not able to do what I do if Royce doesn’t hit that late 3 in the corner. If Georges doesn’t grab that rebound, maybe we lose. It’s a team effort. We’re only winning because we’re doing it together.”

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