To: Rudy Gobert
From: Joe Jazz Fan
Hi there, Mr. Gobert. I’m Joe from Murray, and I’m writing on behalf of Jazz fans everywhere, speaking for them, too. I’m just passing this information along, so please don’t blame the messenger.
Let me say out front that I love your bodaciousness. Love it. The way you tried to get up and walk off the court after hyperextending your knee in the playoffs? That was flat-out John Wayneish. Then after two games on the mend, you scored in double figures in seven of the next eight.
I’ve known Marines that weren’t that tough.
I also liked the way you played it cool when Mr. Indecision took his Xbox to Boston. A lot of my friends got all panicky, with the Jazz now missing their leading scorer. Your response was to video yourself, grooving to music and wearing a look that said, “So what’s your point?”
Now the 2017-18 season looms and the question I'm posing is what happens next? (Asking for a friend.) Starting Monday, it gets real around here. That’s the first day of training camp. In theory, you guys will work your hearts out and everyone will pull together and the whole will exceed the sum of its parts. But then along come Curry and Durant and Westbrook and LBJ, and then you’re just an under-talented team in a star league.
So I’m wondering, what if the Jazz actually need Ricky Rubio to shoot? The man hasn’t made consecutive 3-pointers since “High School Musical” was big. What if the ball is in his hands for the final tick and he doesn’t dish?
When Rubio says “across the pond,” he’s not referencing the distance between America and Europe. He’s referring to the distance between the 3-point line and the rim. It’s that remote to him. Maybe his range will improve with a change of scenery, but he’s been below the watermark for his entire career.
Next, there’s Dante Exum. I’ve been waiting for him to break out since he was drafted in 2014, and now I just don't know. Maybe it’s because he missed a year with the knee, or maybe his progress is simply not there. He’s only 22, but to me it seems like he’s been around for a decade.
He’s uniquely proportioned, and covers a lot of ground, but the most memorable thing about him right now is still his accent.
I’m dying to know, as this season starts, if Alec Burks is truly sound. All that pine time can mess with a person. He’s another guy I’d want in a street fight because, just like you, Rudy, he’s fearless. But fearless and unstoppable are different things.
Chief among my worries, though, is the fact Derrick Favors now needs to be a big star and I don’t know how he can do that from the training room. He has missed 68 games in the last four years due to illness, injury or plain old caution.
I’ve seen his bright moments, like the 17-point, 11-rebound playoff game against the Clippers, last spring. At the same time, I’ve yet to see him consistently bring the kind of fire he did in August when he tweeted, “Keep underestimating.”
I know everyone is pumped about Donovan Mitchell, and I am, too. He had 37 points and eight steals in a Summer League game, and I can’t remember a newcomer that brought such as positive vibe. But he isn’t a 3-point shooter. Remember Trey Lyles? He couldn’t hit the three when drafted, and he couldn’t when he left.
Mitchell’s NBA portfolio is, so far, pretty short: “Owned Summer League.”
That’s like winning Pop-A-Shot at Dave & Buster’s.
At least we know exactly what you can do, Rudy. You make a terrific sunshade. You pass and run well for a big guy — traits the average 7-footer can’t do. You hang after dunking for just the right amount of time, and you don’t back down, regardless.
What you can’t do is regularly make a step-back shot, but who knows? I thought you were a career Euro, now you’re headed for all-stardom.
One more thing, Rudy: They’re coming for you. Hard. Oklahoma City got better with Paul George. Houston got better with Chris Paul. Minnesota improved with Jimmy Butler and Denver trended up with Paul Millsap. The Clippers are hanging around. But the way I see it, you guys got worse when Gordon the Bland left. Jazz management reminds me of the Black Knight in "Monty Python," when his arms are slashed off by King Arthur.
“Just a flesh wound,” the knight says.
So there you have it. ‘Preciate ya, as they say in Utah. In honesty, I never thought Hayward much liked it here. On the other hand, you seem to dig it. Which is part of why you are indisputably the team leader this season. The other part is because you’re its best player. Jazz fans can count on you to get most of the rebounds, score nicely, build a wall and, of course, make us feel better about ourselves.
Don’t be too hard on us. We’re not dissing you or the team. It’s just that with the summer we’ve been through, we really just need a hug.