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As Rudy Gobert’s contract extension negotiations continue, he remains focused on winning a title with the Utah Jazz

SHARE As Rudy Gobert’s contract extension negotiations continue, he remains focused on winning a title with the Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) slams the ball home as the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat play in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Utah won 116-101.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Rudy Gobert is excited about the 2020-21 NBA season.

In fact, during a Zoom call with local reporters that lasted just under 15 minutes on Tuesday evening, the Utah Jazz center said “excited” or “exciting” 14 times. And that excitement comes despite the fact that the Jazz and Gobert’s agent have yet to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Gobert is eligible for the designated veteran extension, more commonly known as a “supermax” deal, which could see Gobert earn up to 35% of the salary cap over a five-year period. The deadline for finalizing the extension is Dec. 21, the day before the 2020-21 season begins.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks pointed out, if an agreement on a supermax deal is not reached by the deadline, Gobert would still be able to sign a four-year extension, worth roughly $130 million, during the 2020-21 season. If neither deal is made then Gobert would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

But, even with all of that on the table and the future so undecided, Gobert said his goals have not changed since the day he joined the Utah Jazz in 2013.

“My goal is to win a championship here,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s been my goal since I got here and it’s still the same. I’m focused on the upcoming season and I’m excited. About the negotiation talk, that’s why I have an agent. So I can focus on basketball and let him take care of that.”

Likewise, the Jazz front office won’t comment on negotiations, but Jazz executive vice president Dennis Lindsey has not wavered on his intentions of keeping Gobert in Utah for the long haul.

“We love Rudy,” Lindsey said on Monday. “We’d like for Rudy to be here for the duration of his career.”

So there you have it. It can be stressful for fans to watch deadlines near with unresolved contract situations looming, but both sides seem confident and committed to one another. From there, it’s just details to be ironed out — multimillion dollar details, but details nonetheless.

As for all of the excitement that Gobert is feeling, the reasons are many.

He’s overjoyed at the idea of Derrick Favors being back on the team, he’s looking forward to mentoring rookie center Udoka Azubuike, he’s relieved that Bojan Bogdanovic will be healthy, he’s motivated by Donovan Mitchell’s growth and he’s galvanized by his own improvement.

“I feel like this year is gonna be my best year so far,” Gobert said, noting the work that he’s put in over the last three months. 

It’s not a secret to anyone that the Jazz have been ousted from the playoffs early over the last four years, and the team is not hugely different this season from what they were last season.

It’s the subtle and small differences that are giving the French star confidence in the Jazz, and Gobert is quick to note how valuable Bogdanovic’s presence is.

“He’s a great scorer and especially in the clutch situations too,” he said. “So of course when you don’t have that guy in a lot of close games in the playoffs it does make a difference.”

So is Bogdanovic’s health plus the return of Favors to the Jazz lineup enough to carry the Jazz into a Finals run?

“I’m 100% confident in our team,” Gobert said. “I believe that we’ve got our destiny in our hands ... and I believe that we have all the weapons that we need to to achieve our goal, which is winning a championship. Now it’s on us.”

The Jazz are just five days away from being able to begin group workouts and practices, 11 days from their first preseason game, and 21 days from the beginning of a 2020-21 season that will be unlike any other, and Rudy Gobert is excited.