School in session: NBA hoops and English on Jazz rookie Rudy Gobert's class schedule
Having been in Gobert’s shoes a few decades ago, Corbin can empathize with the enthusiasm a youngster has to get regular minutes from the get-go.
“As a player, you always want to play. This is a different animal than any other league any of these guys has ever played in. They understand it,” Corbin said. “I want them to want to play and to work to play more minutes on the floor, and he’s doing it.”
One of the more difficult parts of the season for Gobert came in mid-December when his NBA team left for a long trip that began in Miami while he and fellow rookie Ian Clark were sent to Reno, Nev., to begin the first of two D-League assignments.
To Gobert’s credit, his reaction on Twitter and Instagram was humorous. He posted a photo of a billiards table with the caption, “When your team is in miami and you're in reno you do what you can lol.”
Over the course of the next few weeks — with a short Utah return in between — Gobert did what he could to play well, to learn on the court, and to put up impressive numbers. In eight D-League games, he averaged 13.9 points, an eye-popping 74.1 percent shooting, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots for Bakersfield.
Gobert wrapped up his Jam session with 23 points and 14 rebounds on Jan. 11.
Corbin said Gobert got a better idea of playing at an NBA pace during his time in the minors. Simply allowing him to get playing time also helped out.
“The more exposure you get to the speed of the game, the better off he will be,” Corbin said. “He's learning how to use his body where he has to get stronger there, how to shortcut that a little bit by getting to his spots early, staying in position between his man and the basket, and being big there.”
Corbin is confident Gobert will become more of a staple in Utah’s frontcourt in the future, something that hasn't happened as the Jazz have mostly relied on Favors, Kanter and Marvin Williams.
“He’s getting better,” Corbin said. “We’ll find time to get him on the floor, and we see some signs.”
In the meantime, Gobert will continue to work. He's being proactive about learning English, which will only help him communicate with players and coaches. He’s hitting the weight room to strengthen his 245-pound frame, especially his lower-body strength. He shoots with Jazz player development coach Alex Jensen on a daily basis as he tries to refine a swooping left hook and other go-to post-up moves to become a more well-rounded force.
“I think everybody knows I’m going to protect the rim. That’s what I’ve got to do every night,” Gobert said. “Offensively, I’m getting better. I want to be a real threat offensively in the future.”
Though he missed that trip to Miami, Gobert believes his D-League time was beneficial. Extra playing time helps him get used to the bigger courts, faster play and different rules in the U.S. than what he was used to in France.
“I showed in the D-League I can play more physical and I’m confident,” he added. “I think it’s just confidence.”
And, of course, gaining your coach’s complete trust.
Until that all happens, Gobert will relish the hit-and-miss opportunities.
“It’s his (Corbin’s) choice. If he thinks I’m ready, he’ll just give me a chance,” Gobert said. “(Tuesday), Derrick was out, so it was a chance to see my progress.”
Gobert and fans waiting for his time to arrive gobbled that up like it was a warm baguette with French cheese.
There’s still progress to be made, of course.
But Gobert is looking — and sounding — better as time passes.
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