The next level: After seeing minimal playing time as a rookie, Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert looks to improve his game

Published: Sunday, May 18 2014 5:15 p.m. MDT

"It was important for me, just ... to show my progress in the season," he said. "I know I didn't play that much, but I just tried to show, show them all the time. I think I did pretty good. I just can't wait for the next season and summer league, maybe more playing time."

Of course, there were a lot of other nights last season (31 of them, in fact) when Gobert got the dreaded "DNP — CD" in the box score. Translation: "Did Not Play — Coach's Decision."

"That's hard," he admitted. "That was hard for me, one of the hardest parts for me, sitting on the bench."

He knew he had to "just keep working and wait for (playing) time. That was the hardest part."

At season's end, Gobert planned to go home to France for a few weeks but will return to the United States at the end of this month. He feels like he made plenty of progress despite seeing limited playing time in his first NBA season and is confident that, in the future, he can become an integral part of Utah's plans to build a winning team for this franchise.

"Of course, of course," he said when asked if he was a different player in April than he was last November. "Basketball and outside (the game), too. I'm more confident; I'm stronger, I'm better, so of course.

"I look at Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah and those players, and I think I can be — not the same player, of course we are different, you know — I can be that type of player. I can be especially defensively but offensively too, I think."

Acquired in a draft-day deal with the Denver Nuggets last June, Gobert has definitely learned a lot over the last year — about himself, about life in America, and about the NBA game.

Now he'll have to start proving himself to a new Jazz coaching staff, and he hopes to take what he has learned, work hard to improve his skills, and someday soon make himself the player that he and the Jazz front office think he can be.

"There's a lot of games," he said of the NBA's 82-game, regular-season grind. "That's the biggest part — there are a lot of games — so you can't worry about the last game. You've got to just move on at times.

"I'm just focused on myself and, if I come and play in summer league and I play good, they're going to play me. That's what I think."

Yes, if that happens, he thinks he'll not only look like an NBA center — he'll play like one, too.

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com

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