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Facing Jazz for first time since the trade, Rudy Gobert reflects on his time in Utah

Says Gobert, ‘I’m really happy. And I’m really excited about this new adventure. Everything happens for a reason’

SHARE Facing Jazz for first time since the trade, Rudy Gobert reflects on his time in Utah
Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert is ready to host the Utah Jazz — his former team — tonight.

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) stands on the court during an opening night game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Oct. 19, 2022. Gobert and the Wolves host the Utah Jazz tonight.

Abbie Parr, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Rudy Gobert knew that a complete teardown of the Utah Jazz was a possibility. He didn’t know for certain that it would happen, but it felt like a rebuild was closer than it had been since he’d been drafted.

“I knew that the probability was the highest it had ever been in my Utah years,” Gobert said Friday morning, just a few hours before facing the Jazz for the first time as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I knew Danny (Ainge) had a lot of things on his mind and was going to do what he thought was good for the future of the franchise and for ownership. I was prepared. I knew whatever was gonna happen, I was ready to have my best year and keep growing.”

There was a general feeling that the Jazz had missed their window, that the team built around Gobert and Donovan Mitchell had done everything that it was going to do.

There wasn’t really one thing that anyone could point to as the reason that the Jazz team started to feel like it had lost its way. But it was clear that things weren’t getting better.

“I don’t know if you can really call it a problem,” Gobert said. “We’d been really, really good. I just think sometimes you miss that window and it can’t last forever. So you’ve gotta make decisions.”

Those decisions started with Quin Snyder resigning as head coach of the Jazz. Then came the trades. Royce O’Neale was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets, Gobert was shipped to Minnesota, Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Bojan Bogdanovic to the Detroit Pistons.

With so much change in and around the team, it feels a little strange for Gobert to think about Friday night’s game as one against his old team.

“It says Utah on the jersey but Quin is not there and, ... it’s just different — a different structure,” Gobert said. “But it’s still gonna be fun.”

Gobert said that he considers Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay — the veteran holdovers on the Jazz — his close friends and he was able to meet up with Conley on Thursday night to catch up.

He thinks fondly about his time in Utah, about the opportunity he was given by the Jazz and how much he grew as a person and player while living in Salt Lake City. He says that there are too many great memories over his nine years in Utah to pick a favorite.

He hasn’t allowed himself to think too much about what it will be like on Dec. 9, when he is back at Vivint Arena for the first time since the trade.

“I’ve thought about it a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a powerful moment for me. It’s going to be different and fun. It will be a lot of fun. I expect a lot of love from the Jazz fans so it’ll be good.”

Gobert said that he misses the home that he had made for himself in Utah, the familiarity and comfort of his life. But he was also quick to point out that being out of one’s comfort zone can be a catalyst for improvement and positive change.

He’s still getting used to his new teammates, new surroundings, new role, but overall Gobert is happy.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “And I’m really excited about this new adventure. Everything happens for a reason.”


Minnesota center Rudy Gobert, left, stands on the court next to center Karl-Anthony Towns during game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Abbie Parr, Associated Press