I was feeling good. I didn’t lose my confidence. I knew I was going to be ready to go for the season. I think that was more to show my teammates that I’m ready to go. —Jazz center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — Throughout the preseason, most observers could tell something just wasn’t clicking for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
He looked different than the dominating Stifle Tower who burst onto the NBA scene with his stellar defensive effort in the second half of the 2014-15 season.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder could tell something looked different about Gobert long before the third-year French player went out and had his best performance of the preseason.
“You could tell in the locker rom before the game the way he was looking at me when we were giving the pregame discussion and the film. He invested in a way today from the moment he woke up until the game,” Snyder said. “When you invest like that, odds are you’re going to play well.”
Gobert did just that, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a nice alley-oop from Trey Burke. The center said he wanted to play this game as if it were a regular season contest.
“I was feeling good. I didn’t lose my confidence. I knew I was going to be ready to go for the season,” Gobert said. “I think that was more to show my teammates that I’m ready to go.”
He certainly did that. As proof, the Jazz outscored the Nuggets by 28 points when he was on the court for 30 minutes. No other Jazz player had a plus/minus rating higher than +16.
Gobert even had the play of the game. Reminiscent of a highlight from last season at Miami, the 7-1 big man stole the ball at midcourt, dribbled nimbly toward the basket, made a nifty Eurostep and capped the fun moment with a layup.
“It’s what I do,” Gobert said.
“That was impressive,” Jazz point guard Raul Neto said. “To look at a guy his size to make that play, he’s really good.”
Good enough to put Gobert in consideration for potential third point guard duties?
“I don’t think so,” Neto said, laughing. “I think that’s too much.”
Gobert happened to hear his teammate from a few lockers away and blurted out, “Raul!”
The Jazz will happily take what Gobert gave them when he wasn’t trying to be the world’s tallest point guard.
Much of the preseason talk revolving around Gobert was how he looked off. Snyder understood why his starting center got off to a slow start. He had, after all, spent the previous couple of months training with and playing for the French national team. He came to Jazz camp in great shape but a bit drained.
“We’ve talked about Rudy trying to get his energy back and get his focus back after a long summer,” Snyder said Thursday night. “It’s a credit to him.”
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz didn't practice Friday morning, but players and coaches spent hours signing hundreds of basketballs and team memorabilia to hand out for community relations purposes throughout the season. ... Utah will practice again Saturday. ... Former Jazz big Jack Cooley was waived by Cleveland on Friday. He hauled in 15 rebounds in 18 minutes for the Cavaliers earlier this week after being picked up after he'd been cut by Utah.
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