We’re trying but we don’t want to overdo it. It’s going to come with time. —Ricky Rubio
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s hard to miss “The Statues” outside the Vivint Arena.
Both are bronze and just a few feet away from each other.
One of the 8-foot-tall sculptures depicts the NBA’s all-time steals and assists leader, John Stockton, threading the needle.
While the other shows the No. 2 all-time leading scorer, Karl “The Mailman” Malone, skying through the air for a bucket.
The statues are on the downtown corner where John Stockton Drive and Karl Malone Drive meet.
This dynamic duo is the standard in Salt Lake City, as they spoiled Jazz fans with back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.
So when the franchise acquired point guard Ricky Rubio from Minnesota in June for Oklahoma City’s 2018 first round pick, Jazz fans automatically presumed high expectations, based of their standards, as he paired with one of the league’s best bigs in Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Unfortunately, through 11 games, it’s taking longer than expected for the duo to mesh. They lead the team in all the major individual categories, but something is missing.
“I’ve got to learn his game, he’s got to learn mine,” Rubio said of Gobert. “It’s just a process. We’re trying but we don’t want to overdo it. It’s going to come with time.
The guys will continue the process during Friday’s home game against the Miami Heat. Action tips off at 7 p.m.
“There’s a lot of things that are really important to the team and we’ve got to focus on those things.”
Gobert is averaging 14.1 points to go along with his team-best 10.4 rebounds and a league-leading 2.5 swats. Rubio leads the team in points (15.8), assists (6.0) and steals (1.8), but is also in the league’s top 10 in turnovers (4.1).
Their on-court attraction, or lack thereof, isn’t a product of not trying.
“We watch film together and we see why it’s not working but sometimes it’s just the game,” Rubio said. “Sometimes the game gives you one thing or the other and you’ve got to learn what the other team is going to give you.”
Miami (5-6) is coming off a 126-115 victory against Phoenix Wednesday.
Heat big man Hassan Whiteside is another one of the league’s standout centers that’ll be matched up against Gobert. The Jazz Frenchman isn’t thinking too deep off into the individual matchup, but only doing the best he can to snap Utah’s three-game losing skid.
The chemistry between Rubio and Gobert will come with time.
“I think it might be overthinking,” Gobert said. “We’ve just got to play basketball.
The chances of them ever forming a Stockton-Malone, Hall of Fame-type duo this late in their careers is highly unlikely, but with their knack for defense, they could easily become one of the league’s best two-way duos.
But first things first — they have to get on the same page, physically and mentally.
“He’s going to find me and it’s going to be natural,” Gobert said of Rubio. “I think the more we overthink it, the less it’s going to work.
“When you overthink, it usually doesn’t go your way,” he added. “When you let it flow, usually it’ll be just fine.”