Throughout the last few weeks as conversations surrounding the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game began to heat up, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert started to gain steam as a player who might not have been an obvious pick to many fans, but someone who coaches recognized worthy of selection.
Given that Gobert was not named a starter last week, it was up to those coaches to name him a reserve, but as that list of 14 players (seven from each conference) was unveiled Thursday evening on TNT, the Frenchman’s name was not among them.
Gobert not getting picked is a surprise, as he’s maintained his status as an elite defender after winning Defensive Player of the Year following last season, and he’s become more and more important offensively, this year averaging 15 points and an NBA-leading 6.1 screen assists, which players are credited for when they set a screen that leads to a made basket.
ESPN's Bobby Marks noted that by not getting selected, Gobert will miss out on a $1 million bonus. Marks reported that he will not get it even if selected as an injury replacement.
There was also some talk that Gobert’s teammate, second-year guard Donovan Mitchell, could get selected as a reserve, but his unspectacular start to the season likely doomed his chances before he was fantastic in January. He will, however, play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 15.
Immediately after the reserves were announced, TNT commentator Ernie Johnson noted that there was likely to be some unhappiness in Utah over the selections, and that was indeed the case, as a number of people in the Jazz organization expressed frustration via Twitter, particularly regarding Gobert.
Wrote Jazz president Steve Starks: "Rudy deserved to be named an All-Star. Complete non-sense and we need more integrity and accountability. If the coaches vote than their ballots should be made public."
General manager Dennis Lindsey's wife Becky wrote in part, "Very quiet night at the Lindsey house...don’t think I’ve ever seen Dennis so incredibly mad!!"
Six of Gobert's teammates opined also, with some of them adding sentiments that the snub will fuel the Frenchman moving forward. A few added #robbed to their tweets.
"Together we will prevail big fella," Donovan Mitchell wrote in part.
Added Joe Ingles: For a game that preaches defense wins championships, @rudygobert27 deserves to be an All-Star. There’s no one like him in the league. Whilst being super efficient on offense!"
Wrote Ricky Rubio: "... Rudy is not an AllStar?? I guess defense and winning means nothing."
There was some national disagreement, too, as ESPN's Zach Lowe said Gobert should replace Indiana's Victor Oladipo, who is injured, while his colleague, Tim MacMahon, wrote, "The Jazz fully expected Rudy Gobert to receive his first All-Star selection. This will not go over well in Utah."
While neither Gobert nor Mitchell were picked, one player with local ties was, as former Weber State standout Damian Lillard was named as a reserve. The Portland Trail Blazers star will be making his fourth All-Star appearance.
For the second time, the All-Star Game, which will be played in Charlotte, will not be a contest between Eastern Conference and Western Conference players. Rather, two team captains (one from each conference — the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo) will pick their teams from the pool of 24 players.
The eight players other than the captains who were picked as starters must be selected first. They are as follows:
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
The full list of reserves is as follows:
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder21 comments on this story
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (injured. Will be replaced by NBA commissioner Adam Silver)
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic