HOUSTON — Rudy Gobert has made a habit of getting his dinner in the media room before games while he’s been sitting out with a knee injury since early December.
When asked a few days ago when he was coming back, he replied, “Soon.”
It turns out “soon” was Thursday night as Gobert made his first appearance in a Jazz uniform since Nov. 30 when the Jazz suffered a three-point loss at home. Gobert has missed the last 18 games while rehabbing his knee injury and is actually returning slightly sooner than anticipated, coming back in a little more than five weeks.
Before the game, the Jazz made Gobert active and said he would be “available,” while not starting, and that his minutes would be “restricted.”
Sure enough he entered the game at the 7:18 mark of the first quarter after spending a few minutes on a stationary bike in a hallway behind the Jazz bench.
Gobert played just five minutes in the first half, getting a tip-in off a Trey Lyles miss in his first minute on the floor and also grabbed three rebounds.
He didn’t come back until midway through the third quarter and played four minutes with another basket. He made his final appearance of the night midway through the fourth quarter when he made a big dunk and posed for a second for his teammates on the bench before quickly realizing he better get back on defense.
He was taken out for the final two minutes even though he tried to talk coach Quin Snyder into letting him stay in the close game.
“This is a long race and we’ve talked about that,’’ said Snyder. “It’s about growth and experience and improvement and two minutes is not going to be the thing that will impact us over the long term.”
Gobert said he felt “great” and that he had no problem with contact or with jumping up and down, as he proved with that monster dunk in the fourth quarter.
“This game was to see how I was feeling and I feel great,” he said. “I wasn’t tired at all. Next game I’ll probably double the minutes.”
Snyder also praised Gobert for his good attitude during the five weeks he’s been out.
“He’s been really good,” Snyder said. “You find out even more about people when you see them go through different situations. He’s been really engaged and focused and I think he kept his mind involved in the preparation process. He’s competitive and wants to be back quickly.”
NO BIG DEAL: The Jazz have had several defensive 3-second violations lately with at least one in the past three games before Thursday. But Snyder isn’t too concerned about it even if it gives opponents extra free throws.
“I’m not that worried about it,” he said. “Usually when you have college players, they’re not used to the rules, European players aren’t that used to the rules. That’s a violation you obviously don’t want all the time and don’t want them at inopportune times. You generally live with them because guys are in position to help defensively. And if it’s only one a game then I’ll live with it. If it starts to get to being two three or four that would concern me more because that means we probably don’t know what we’re doing.”
JAZZ NOTES: With the victory, Houston has now won 10 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams . . . The Jazz and Rockets play again in Salt Lake on Feb. 23 and in Houston on March 23 . . . Rockets' center Dwight Howard didn’t play because of lower back tightness . . . Rockets’ backup point guard Ty Lawson didn’t play Thursday after being suspended by the NBA earlier in the day for a DUI offense last summer . . . Derrick Favors, who didn’t make the trip, missed his eighth straight game for Utah with a sore back . . . The Jazz play Miami at home Saturday night.