Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In Sunday’s Utah Jazz win over the Washington Wizards there was some serious on-court chemistry between Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson.
The pair combined for 36 second-half points, spaced the floor well together, and as the game went on started to get more of a feel for playing off of each other.
Then, in the fourth quarter, on a pick-and-roll and later on a drive-and-dump if you had blinked you would have thought that Clarkson was Joe Ingles with how seamlessly he got the ball to Gobert for easy buckets.
“He was rolling hard to the basket and just doing what he does,” Clarkson said.
Jazz fans have become accustomed to seeing the Ingles-Gobert pairing work like magic against many of their opponents as well as the pairing of Donovan Mitchell and Gobert. But, in Mitchell’s absence, Clarkson and Gobert had a chance to play together more than they normally would have on Sunday.
The way that Quin Snyder staggers his starters and rotations there are certain stretches where Clarkson and Gobert don’t share the court.
“It makes sense that that connection is still developing,” Snyder said.
In fact, the only players that Gobert has spent less time on the court with in the last nine games is Georges Niang and Rayjon Tucker. For comparison, through the Jazz’s nine-game win streak, Gobert and Joe Ingles have played 223 minutes together. Gobert and Clarkson have played 113, with 25 of those minutes coming against the Wizards.
“It’s coming along. I feel like we’re taking steps every game and we’re continuing to grow and come together,” Clarkson said of his on-court relationship with Gobert. “We’re just laying the bricks.”
The Jazz are not lacking in playmakers, so Snyder sees the roster makeup as an opportunity to let those connections happen organically in the flow of the game. Rather than push or force feed a Gobert-Ingles pick-and-roll, he lets the players feel those situations out. If they are rolling and the play is working Snyder will let them cook.
On Sunday, with some minutes opened up and more time together on the court, Gobert and Clarkson felt things happening, which is an excellent sign for the future.
“It’s huge because his ability to score, we all know that, but when the defense is actually helping if he’s able to find the open guy it’s just great for the team,” Gobert said.
Looking ahead, as the season starts to wind down and the playoffs grow nearer it’s going to be more and more important to understand exactly what is possible for the different lineups that are on the court together.
Especially when the postseason rolls around, being able to give Mitchell some rest and still have confidence in the playmaking abilities of everyone on the court and what they are able to accomplish with Gobert is going to become of the utmost importance.
“For me it’s easy because we’ve played together for six years,” Ingles said of his chemistry with Gobert. “It takes time. The more you’re out there with someone the easier it is and you don’t get to practice as much as you would like with the schedule.”
Ingles went on to note that he and Tony Bradley still have conversations during timeouts about when and where to set screens and when and where to pass the ball, so he isn’t expecting for Clarkson and Gobert to figure things out overnight.
Though it was clear by the end of Sunday’s game that the bricks that are being laid as a foundation for the Clarkson and Gobert pairing could pay off big time as they continue to play with one another.