DENVER — This is not a drill. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are NBA All-Stars.
The last couple of times that the All-Star rosters have been announced, it hasn’t been a happy affair for Gobert and his coach Quin Snyder.
This time everything was different. Not only is Gobert an All-Star but he’s headed to Chicago with his teammate, both making their All-Star debuts.
“Three years ago when I didn’t make it and a year ago he called me and was pretty pissed about it both times and this time he was able to give me a hug and finally embrace it,” Gobert said Thursday night. “I don’t think I would be here without Quin. He’s a big part of who I am as a player and a person so it was pretty cool to enjoy this moment.”
“I know how hard they’ve worked and how committed they are to their teammates and how excited the guys on the team are for them to have that opportunity” — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder
Gobert, who was infamously emotional after being left off the All-Star roster last season, brought to tears while being interviewed about not being selected, is averaging 15.7 points, 14.6 rebounds, and two blocks per game while shooting at a career-best 68.6%.
The two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the first person to have earned the year-end award multiple times and not been named to a single All-Star team. That is no longer the case as he will be in the Windy City for the festivities and the main event, which is on Sunday, Feb. 16.
Joining Gobert as a first-time All-Star is Mitchell, who is averaging career-highs across the board with 25 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game while shooting at a career best 46.2% from the field and 36.8% from 3-point range.
“I know how hard they’ve worked and how committed they are to their teammates and how excited the guys on the team are for them to have that opportunity because they’ve been about the team, they’ve been about helping each other be better,” Snyder said of his two All-Stars. “To have them both make it in that context is great, says a lot about both of them.”
Mitchell, who has competed in (and won) the Slam Dunk contest as well as competed in the Rising Stars challenge during All-Star Weekend, noted on Wednesday that he’d given thought to the possibility of being part of the headlining game.
“It’d be an incredible honor,” he said. “I’ve done every night except Sunday. I did Saturday my rookie year, and Friday my sophomore year. So hopefully I’ll get the call.”
The call came for the pair on Thursday during a TNT broadcast that announced the NBA coaches selections for All-Star reserves.
The All-Star game is taking on a new format the NBA also announced on Thursday. To honor the recently deceased Kobe Bryant, the score will be reset in between the first three quarters with the winning team of each quarter donating $100,000 to a charity from the host city of Chicago.
The final quarter of the All-Star game will start with the cumulative scores from each quarter and 24 points — in honor of the jersey number Bryant wore for his last 10 seasons in the NBA — will be added to each teams score. The first team to reach the newly created number will win the game and earn another $200,000 for charity.
Both Gobert and Mitchell said that they are excited about the new format and think it will make things more competitive, but overall the two Jazz All-Stars were overcome with the pride from what making the All-Star team means about the success of their team.
“It’s very special,” Gobert said. “We’ve been through a lot together and being able to embrace that together with the support of our teammates it’s an amazing feeling. All the guys deserve it on our team. We wouldn’t be here without the way we’ve been playing as a team and every single person in this locker room is responsible for that.”
Mitchell made a point on Thursday to acknowledge how happy he was for Gobert to have made the team after being let down so many times before by the All-Star rosters not having him on it.
“Imagine going three years straight,” he said. “So for him it’s huge and he’s worked so hard and I told him that you can go one of two ways and let it hang over you and really defeat you or do what he did and kick it right in the butt and came back and became and All-Star.”
Additionally former Weber State star Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers was named an All-Star for the fifth time in his career.