I actually quite liked him a lot. Went to lunch with Rudy. —OKC's Steven Adams
OKLAHOMA CITY — After an intense pre-draft workout on June 20, 2013, a baby-faced Rudy Gobert greeted a scrum of media at the Portland Trail Blazers' practice facility.
Just six days before his 21st birthday, the Frenchman matched up against Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams for the third time as they prepared for the 2013 NBA draft.
“It’s like I’m taller but he’s stronger so we just compete and try to play hard and he’s good,” Gobert admitted.
“It’s cool, it’s fun because he’s a giant,” a facial-hairless Adams said back then. “He’s a large human being, man.”
Adams ended up getting picked No. 12 by the OKC Thunder as Gobert went 27th overall to the Denver Nuggets, but was traded to the Utah Jazz on draft day for Erick Green and cash.
Fast forward to five years later.
The big men are once again matched up, but now in a head-to-head playoff series.
Adams now has long hair with a full goatee and beard, while Gobert also has grown facial hair with his trademark squiggly part on the left side of his haircut.
Not only have their looks evolved, but so have their skills. They’re extremely physical forces in the low post as Gobert has emerged as a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Even with all the success they’ve achieved in the professional ranks, with Adams making the NBA All-Rookie second team and Gobert leading the league in blocks in 2017 while making the All-NBA second team, those intense pre-draft workouts are where they gained mutual respect.
“Those were physical. Everything was physical so we’ve been playing against Steven Adams for a while,” Gobert said. “I think he’s got a lot better offensively as we all do, but he’s always been pretty athletic and pretty strong, but he’s got more experience, he got a little floater, good post game so he did a good job.”
Even as they battle within this playoff intensity, there’s always appreciation for what the other man is doing for his team.
“I actually quite liked him a lot. Went to lunch with Rudy,” Adams recalled at OKC’s shootaround Wednesday. “He’s a good lad, mate. He’s a good lad. He’s a good dude.”