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What it takes to be the one of the greatest defenders the NBA has ever seen

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Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic battles for a rebound with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in Salt Lake City.

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) grabs a rebound over Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) as the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Portland won 105-98.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Jazz Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Thursday.

It takes a lot of work to be a good NBA defender. It takes even more work to be the best.

Rudy Gobert won his third Defensive Player of the Year award in four years on Tuesday and when asked about the amount of work it takes to become one of the greatest defenders the league has ever seen, he didn’t shy away from saying how much has gone into getting to this point.

“It takes relentless dedication every day,” Gobert said. “In this league, we have so many games, being able to stay healthy and being able to stay strong, being able to try to bring it every single night for my team, it’s a challenge. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication and things that people don’t see. People that watch might think it’s easy, but if it was easy everyone would do it, and it’s not.”

Gobert credited the Jazz’s coaching staff and his teammates for pushing him and holding him accountable. It’s their support and their encouragement that keeps him motivated to continue to work every day, he said.

That’s a very reciprocal relationship though, because his teammates are encouraged and want to do better, especially on the defensive end, because of how much work Gobert puts in and the success that he’s had.

“He makes us all better defenders,” Joe Ingles said of Gobert. “He lets us be more aggressive because we know he’s got our back. It’s nice to have a big 7-foot Frenchman back behind you, knowing that whatever happens out on the floor, he’s going to go and try and help you.”

Gobert said that as far as accolades go, the next thing that he wants is to win an NBA championship and that he would take a small moment to appreciate becoming just the fourth NBA player to win DPOY honors three times, before turning his full attention back to the Jazz’s current playoff run.

Though Gobert might not be focused on winning any more DPOYs, his teammates are proud and believe that his third won’t be his last.

“It’s a proud moment for our organization and obviously for him to win three of them,” Ingles said. “I highly doubt it will be the last one. He’s 28, he’s got a while to go, he’s looked after himself on and off the court. So yeah, proud of him.” 

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Through five playoff games, Donovan Mitchell is averaging 31.8 points per game while shooting 40% from 3-point range. Of the remaining players in the playoffs, Mitchell’s 31.8 points per game ranks second among all scorers, behind only Kevin Durant (32 points per game).

This week on Unsalvageable

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast”, hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster).

New episodes come out every Wednesday with bonus episodes to come often and a recap episode after every playoff game. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On June 7, 1998, the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz, 96-54, in the most lopsided game in the history of the NBA Finals. The 54 points by the Jazz is also an NBA record for fewest points in a game since the inception of the 24-second shot clock.

Extra points

  • Jordan Clarkson stands ‘in solidarity’ with Utah’s Filipino community after vandalism (Deseret News)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic’s gravity is crucial to Utah’s title hopes (The Athletic)
  • Clippers’ Paul George praises Donovan Mitchell’s development (Salt Lake Tribune)

Around the league

USA Basketball to hold camp in Las Vegas ahead of Tokyo Olympics.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley fined for tampering after radio comments about LeBron James.

Up next: NBA playoffs

June 12 | 6:30 p.m. | Game 3 at Los Angeles Clippers | ABC

June 14 | 8 p.m. | Game 4 at Los Angeles Clippers | TNT

June 16 | 8 p.m. | *Game 5 vs. Los Angeles Clippers | TNT

June 18 | 8 p.m. | *Game 6 at Los Angeles Clippers | ESPN

June 20 | TBD | *Game 7 vs. Los Angeles Clippers | TBD

* Game if necessary