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Utah Jazz sign 'backbone of defense' Rudy Gobert to 4-year extension

SALT LAKE CITY — While the Utah Jazz were in Los Angeles this weekend, Doc Rivers was asked about the value of big players like Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan in a basketball world that seems to be trending small.

The comments made by Rivers, the Clippers coach and president of basketball operations, offer some validation to the move the Jazz made on Monday when they agreed to a contract extension with Gobert.

“I think those guys are invaluable,” Rivers said before his Clippers beat the Jazz 88-75 Sunday at Staples Center. “The only reason the other teams don’t have them is because they don’t have them. All those teams that are playing the other ways, if they (could have) D.J. and Gobert, they would take them today.”

Rest easy, Jazz fans.

Thanks to a successful negotiation between Gobert’s camp and Jazz brass, The Stifle Tower won’t be on the market until after the 2020-21 season. He’ll be paid about $102 million over the course of the four seasons after this one, according to reports.

There are no options on the extension.

Gobert celebrated his trick-or-treat haul via social media on Halloween night.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey credited Gobert for helping to make this happen in the early period instead of prolonging it and becoming a restricted free agent next offseason to see what other offers might come in.

Simple reason: Gobert loves it in Utah, both as a player and as a person.

Also, Gobert wanted to have a deal that was lucrative for him while allowing the Jazz to pay talent around him. That will be important in the next couple of offseasons as Utah tries to keep Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors — perhaps George Hill, too — together as a group.

“He made it abundantly clear (to his agent and Jazz management) that he wanted to reach a fair deal for himself that he could put to be bed his financial future while also allowing the team to have flexibility and control of a core piece going forward,” Lindsey said. “It was really the marriage of that idea.”

Gordon Hayward gave Gobert a shout out on his Twitter account. Incidentally, the Jazz and Hayward could not come to terms on his extension three years ago, a move that cost the Jazz several millions of dollars. It's highly likely the Jazz small forward will opt out of the final year of his four-year extension this summer and become an unrestricted free agent.

The Jazz took a flier on Gobert in the 2013 draft when he slipped to the bottom end of the first round, acquiring him in a very favorable trade with Denver.

Gobert had a shaky rookie season as he learned the ways of the NBA and spent time in the D-League. The Saint-Quentin, France, native decided to pursue his basketball dream in the U.S. after playing French pro ball with Cholet Basket in his late teens.

Things took off for Gobert during the summer between his first and second NBA seasons. While playing for Team France, Gobert’s confidence and level of play took a big step forward as he helped his country win a bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Gobert’s third season was hampered when he sprained the MCL in his left knee in early December 2015. He missed 18 games and was never quite consistently his dominant self after that.

The 7-foot-1 center, whose a 7-foot-9 arm span, came back to camp this fall in tip-top shape. His offensive game has expanded and he’s again proving to be a stifling rim protector.

In three games this season, Gobert is averaging 11.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and a 19.79 PER (player efficiency rating). His impact on the defensive end as the league’s premier rim protector is quite high, too.

“A few of us around the league are fortunate to have rim protection. There’s just a scarcity of tall players with length who have mobility,” Lindsey said. “Coaches always like players who can contribute to the bottom line without the ball.”

To that point, Lindsey certainly is happy Gobert is improving offensively and becoming a better free-throw shooter, but he acknowledged that his 24-year-old big man’s primary responsibility is on the defensive end.

As a bonus, Lindsey noted that Gobert is a willing and capable passer and that he rebounds once every 2.8 minutes, which is an elite rate.

They have high hopes that the Frenchman will continue to improve, as his footwork and positioning have through work with assistant coach Alex Jensen and his strength through Utah's training staff and P3 sessions, but the Jazz are satisfied with the player he is right now, too.

Considering his attitude, his commitment to Utah and the Jazz, and his unique skill set, that was more than enough to convince the organization to lock him up long term.

“Look, if nothing else changes substantially with his game, we were willing to commit as long as he understood we wanted him to be who he is,” Lindsey said. “It’s not an expectation for him to score a bunch of points. That role will fall on other players. He can certainly help the bottom line by being the backbone of the defense.”

Not that they need any validation, but the Jazz can feel better knowing at least one coach and league executive sees Gobert for what he’s worth.

Lindsey said he echoes what Rivers said about their bigs.

“Those guys are so valuable to your team,” Rivers said. “There’s just not a lot of guys who do what they do. They’re active. They’re long. They can run the floor. They can block shots. They’ve bought into being a defensive player, which is almost (considered) a bad word.”

Leave it to a former teammate and Jazz fan favorite to add some humor to Gobert’s contract extension situation. Not long after the news broke Monday afternoon, Nets forward Trevor Booker threw down the gauntlet with this comical tweet.

“Congrats to the homie @rudygobert27 on the extension,” Booker wrote. “Too bad money can’t keep you from getting dunked on when we play.”

By the way, the Jazz travel to Brooklyn on Jan. 2 to face Booker and his new team. The Nets return to Utah on March 3.

Knowing Gobert, whose competitive spirit and amicable personality are even bigger than his huge body, he's already checked the schedule for those games.

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