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Jazz center Rudy Gobert stays positive amid knee injury: ‘I’ll be back stronger’

SALT LAKE CITY — The earliest that Utah Jazz fans will see center Rudy Gobert on the court again is in December.

But the big man was at Vivint Arena Monday night just one day after the team made a formal announcement that he would miss at least four weeks with a bone bruise in his right knee.

“I’m confident that the team is going to win games even when I’m not here and I’ll be back stronger,” Gobert said to a handful of reporters. “It’s like an all-star break before the all-star break.

“So everything is good, I’m confident and nothing’s changed,” he added. “No team goals. No individual goals. Everything’s good.”

Gobert currently leads the league in blocked shots with 2.5 per game, while averaging 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds with eight double-doubles.

An MRI revealed that Gobert has a right tibia contusion. The Frenchman suffered the injury after clashing with Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters, which he later called a “dirty play.”

Gobert originally passed the injury protocol after the Heat game Friday but showed different symptoms after being examined more thoroughly by the team staff Saturday, per Jazz officials.

Waiters responded to the Gobert’s dirty play accusation ahead of Sunday’s game against the Pistons, but was then involved in a similar incident with Detroit star Andre Drummond — where he twisted him to the ground after being lost on a screen.

“I’ve never been a dirty player in my life,” Waiters told the Sun-Sentinel. “I went for the ball. Tell him to get out of his feelings and that’s what it is, just like that.”

Gobert said he hadn’t watched the play with Drummond yet and neither did Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

“I heard that there was a similar play, depending on how you want to see the play, you can come to a lot of different conclusions,” Snyder said. “But like I said, when I saw the play, I’ve heard people say those things and we’ve moved on and just trying to get Rudy healthy.

“Dion Waiters is a good player and I think a clean player and those things happen but it’s unfortunate.”

After learning about Waiters’ call for him to get out his feelings, Gobert offered a witty response of his own.

“It’s not my feelings, it’s my knee,” Gobert said. “I mean, I like to play basketball so sometimes if someone takes that away from you, you’ve got to get in your feelings for a reason.”

After watching the replay of the crash with Waiters, Gobert says he’s thankful that the low hit didn’t do more damage.

There’s currently not much pain and the swelling has decreased on the knee, but Gobert will have to stay in game shape through consistent conditioning and keeping his muscles strong in the weight room. He hopes to return as soon as possible.

The goal is to reach the playoffs.

“It’s all about how I heal and how I feel,” Gobert said. “Usually, I heal very fast so I’m pretty confident. We’re not going to rush it or do anything stupid but I’m pretty confident that hopefully I can be done before that.”