Facebook Twitter

Rudy Gobert explains why he’s going to represent France at the Rio Olympics

SHARE Rudy Gobert explains why he’s going to represent France at the Rio Olympics
France's Rudy Gobert shoots a free throw during their quarter final basketball match at the EuroBasket European Basketball Championships, between France and Latvia, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015 in Lille, northern France.

France’s Rudy Gobert shoots a free throw during their quarter final basketball match at the EuroBasket European Basketball Championships, between France and Latvia, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015 in Lille, northern France.

Michel Spingler, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Rudy Gobert’s decision to participate with the French national team in the 2016 Rio Olympics came down to a few simple things.

First, it’s been a goal.

Second, his loyalty.

Third, his competitive spirit.

A bonus?

The Utah Jazz center is not worried about the virus that’s keeping some athletes who’ve decided to stay away from Brazil this summer.

“Zika,” he said, “is not that big of a concern for me.”

Gobert is more concerned, he added, about a possible injury, although that wasn’t about to stop him from embracing this rare challenge. Injuries, after all, can happen playing basketball anywhere.

“It (an injury) can happen in the first practice of training camp,” Gobert said. “I’m not going to stop playing basketball because I think I can be hurt. Olympics is great and I want to play with them.”

The them Gobert referred to includes his older French teammates, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.

Ultimately, that helped him make the decision after France beat Canada this past Sunday in the final Olympics qualifier tournament in the Philippines.

“I wanted to go,” Gobert said after watching a Jazz summer league game at UNLV. “I just wanted to make sure it was the right decision.”

He announced his decision to play Monday on his Twitter account.

“After a few days thinking about it, I was like, ‘I always dreamed about it,’” Gobert said. “We have some guys that I have a lot of respect for like Tony, Boris. It’s probably going to be their last opportunity to get a medal, to play the Olympics. I was like, ‘We can do something great, so let’s do it.’”

Gobert made it clear that he’s not just going for a fun trip to South America or to hang out with pals.

“I don’t go there just to go there,” Gobert said. “I go there to win, to win it all, to win a medal. I just go there to win.”

France will be one of the teams favored to contend for a medal, but Team USA will be the clear favorite to win a third straight gold medal despite not having LeBron James, Steph Curry and some other top-tier talent.

The U.S. and France are both in Group A along with Australia, China, Serbia and Venezuela.

Group B includes Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Spain.

“I don’t to go there to lose,” Gobert said. “If I go there I think we can get them (the Americans). It’s not going to be easy. They’ve got a great team, great players, but I go there to win.”

The Jazz have a total of four players who’ll participate in the Olympic basketball tournament with the French duo, Australia’s Joe Ingles and Brazil’s Raul Neto.

Gobert smiled when asked if he’s excited to play Ingles’ Boomers in group play.

“There’s a lot of games I look forward to. Every game will be important,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to play against him.”

While the Jazz are understandably apprehensive about having their players participate in international play — especially in light of Dante Exum’s knee injury last summer with Team Australia — the organization is supportive of its athletes.

Two summers ago, Gobert benefited greatly from his time with the French national team. He gained a lot of confidence heading into the 2014-15 season after a strong showing against Pau Gasol and Spain in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

“I always love to play national team,” he said. “It was great that time because I wasn’t playing a lot during the season. I had an opportunity to play at the highest level against probably one of the best teams in the world, Spain. It was great. That was a great experience. It always makes me better as a player, so why not?”

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

TWITTER: DJJazzyJody