Rudy Gobert’s night against the Houston Rockets was a very short one on Thursday.
After committing an offensive foul early in the first quarter of the Utah Jazz’s game, an unhappy Gobert took his frustration out on a drink that was sitting on the scorer’s table. The result was Jazz center being ejected with 9:13 remaining in the first quarter.
From the outset it was apparent this wasn’t going to be Rudy Gobert’s night. He picked up a personal foul just one second into the game. Then he was called for a weak foul after James Harden flopped fewer than three minutes into the game.
The ejection was the first of the season for Gobert.
On Tuesday, Gobert was fined $15,000 by the NBA for criticizing officials following Utah’s loss to Miami on Sunday. There is speculation that the early foul calls were retribution for his previous criticism of the officials.
We’re now four weeks into the new NBA season, and several teams have come out of the gates scorching. The Raptors and Bucks look like the class of the East, the Warriors appear borderline unbeatable, and the young Nuggets have shown they’re ready to contend now.
Those teams’ impressive starts could largely be attributed to the stellar play of their stars. Here are 10 players — including at least one from each of those teams — off to a hot start.
10. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Everyone seemed to be saying the same thing about the Blazers heading into this season: they’re toast. Portland had an impressive 2017-18 regular season, but suffered a brutal first-round postseason exit at the hands of Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Despite Portland’s regular-season success, Terry Stotts’ job security was in question. Well, Portland has started strong (10-3) yet again, and Damian Lillard is a big reason for that. He’s currently averaging 26.0 points per game on a career-best field-goal percentage (46.5), and free-throw percentage (94.0). He recently hung 30 on LeBron and the Lakers. Lillard looks poised to have a breakthrough campaign thrusting him into MVP contention. He’s on a mission to prove Portland is a genuine contender in the loaded West.
Last year’s NBA All-Star Game was the most competitive we’ve seen in years, as Team LeBron edged Team Stephen, 148-145. Something about having the two stars pick their squads, playground-style, got the competitive juices flowing.
The entertaining showdown featured five first-time All-Stars (including four from the East): Joel Embiid, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Goran Dragic, and Karl-Anthony Towns. So, which players could make their first All-Star Game appearance this year? Here are 10 to look out for.
10. Brandon Ingram, Lakers
The Lakers may not win the West, but adding the best player alive practically guarantees they’ll be a top-tier team. As L.A. jockeys with the Warriors, Jazz, Rockets, and company, someone is going to have to step up to complement LeBron James. Ingram is your best bet to fill that role. The lanky Duke product made a big leap from year one to two, significantly elevating his per-game averages in points (9.4 to 16.1), rebounds (4.0 to 5.3), assists (2.1 to 3.9), and blocks (0.5 to 0.7), as well as his three-point shooting percentage (29 percent to 39 percent). Though rumors are swirling that Kevin Durant may opt to join LeBron in Hollywood in 2019, Ingram has an opportunity this year to prove the Lakers already have a Durant-type star.
It won’t come as news to anyone that the NBA’s Western Conference is loaded.
LeBron James’ decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers puts the topper on the most loaded conference in basketball. Beyond James, you have a Golden State Warriors team that will eventually be able to start five All-Stars if they choose to do so. That doesn’t even encompass a number of other superstars playing out West either. We’re already excited for the playoffs.
Who are the 20 best players in the Western Conference? Here’s our list.
20) Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
It may seem premature, but Mitchell is on here as much for what he could be as soon as next season. Mitchell walked into the NBA from Louisville and became one of the major reasons Utah had such a successful season, averaging upwards of 20 points per game. With a year of experience and the motivation from a feud under his belt, there’s no reason to believe he won’t get even better going forward. Did you see how well he performed in the playoffs? That’s just a taste of what’s to come.
Rudy Gobert came to Monday’s NBA Awards show well dressed.
The Utah Jazz center, who won NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was sporting a hot pink suit. It was a bold fashion choice that created a buzz on social media. The reactions were mixed.
Here are some of the positive comments:
But there were also some negative ones:
Not everyone can pull off a pink suit, but Gobert certainly did. It looked good on him.
Rudy Gobert sent an awesome tweet after his Utah Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday night.
The defensive stalwart pointed out just how much the Jazz accomplished in comparison to expectations others had for them.
“So proud of this group… from ‘they won’t make the playoffs’ to competing against the best team in the league for a WCF spot… Keep doubting, we only getting better from this,” Gobert wrote.
Utah may have lost in five games to the Rockets, but they certainly made things competitive. Beyond that, knocking out the Thunder from the postseason was a major accomplishment.
Even though they lost Gordon Hayward last summer, the draft pick of Donovan Mitchell was a major hit. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic entering next season.
Wednesday night’s comeback by the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Utah Jazz was more proof of how impactful Rudy Gobert is on defense.
The Jazz were up by as much as 25 points (71-56) in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Thunder. Just when it looked like Utah would end the series in five games and advance to the second round, everything changed.
The Thunder put up 37 points in the third quarter and tied things up at 78 entering the final period. Most of their comeback was mounted when Gobert was out of the game due to foul trouble.
Utah was up 65-46 when Gobert exited the game after picking up his fourth foul with 9:23 left in the third quarter. He sat for about four minutes and when he re-entered, the score was 73-60. He picked up his fifth foul a little over a minute later. Utah was up 74-64 at that point.
Gobert finally returned with just under eight minutes left in that game, but by that point, the Thunder had claimed an 88-87 lead.
With Gobert spending so much time on the bench due to foul trouble, the Thunder ended up leading the Jazz in points in the paint (44 to 32). Just in case you weren’t convinced about his defensive impact before, you should be now. This is exactly why the NBA’s block leader last year was voted first-team All-Defense.
Russell Westbrook was fined $10,000 and assessed a technical foul for his incident with Rudy Gobert during Game 4 of the Thunder-Jazz series on Monday night.
Westbrook was entering the game with under eight minutes remaining and got into it with Gobert, who had just been fouled. The Oklahoma City guard made contact with Gobert:
The NBA reviewed the play and on Tuesday announced that Westbrook had been fined and received a tech.
The Jazz lead the series 3-1 after winning Game 4.
Rudy Gobert trolled his former teammate Enes Kanter on Twitter in response to a photo Kanter posted on Monday.
Kanter posted a photo that showed a swarm of Philadelphia 76ers all over him. It’s unclear whether he was sharing it to show how tough he is when he’s fighting for a basket in traffic, or to mock himself for trying to force a shot with five guys on him.
Gobert saw the photo and had some advice for Kanter, suggesting he “pass the ball” next time.
That was my reaction, too.
Gobert and Kanter were teammates on the Utah Jazz before Kanter was traded to OKC. Kanter is now in his first season with the Knicks and averaging 14.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but only 1.5 assists, as you could imagine.
The Utah Jazz will reportedly be without star center Rudy Gobert for a month.
According to Shams Charania of the Vertical, Gobert has been diagnosed with a sprained PCL and a bone bruise in his tibia, which will rule him out for several weeks.
This will confirm Utah’s worst fears after Gobert had his knee rolled up by teammate Derrick Favors on Friday. More worrisome for Utah is the fact that this is already the second fairly significant knee injury he has sustained this season, though at least there was clear contact that led to this one.