SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert held it together for more than six minutes, but eventually the emotion became too much.
Eighteen hours after surprisingly being omitted from the Western Conference All-Star team, the Utah Jazz center met with local media Friday morning after the team’s shootaround in preparation for the evening’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Asked about being motivated to succeed regardless of being named an All-Star, the big Frenchman said, “It’s always going to be that way” before he put his hand to his eyes and said “Sorry” before walking off, tears in his eyes.
That moment was a culmination of a wide range of emotions Gobert said he’s had since he found out he didn’t make it as he watched TNT Thursday night like the rest of the world. Frustration, surprise and disrespect were among those emotions, especially when his mother called him crying.
“Obviously we all know how the league works, the direction the league is heading to,” he said. “I thought there was a chance I might not make it, but just surprised. I think it’s disrespectful. I feel disrespected. Disrespectful not only towards me but towards the team, towards the organization and towards the game.”
On disrespect toward the game, Gobert, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, feels as though the coaches not selecting him as a reserve sends a poor message about the importance of defense.
“All the coaches preach about defense,” he said. “Every day they talk about defense, they talk about how the priority is to get stops in order to win basketball games. When it’s time to vote, they’re not able to reward the best defensive player in the world.”
The Frenchman said that could have a trickle-down effect on youngsters growing up learning the game.
“It's frustrating not only for me, but the game generally," he said. "All the kids that are watching, you’re telling them that defense doesn’t matter, that winning doesn’t matter. I don’t think it’s great for the future of the league...Defense doesn’t sell as much as offense. It’s a business. It’s fine, but the game, the essence of the game, is still about competition, still about winning. Even though it’s a business, you’ve still got to keep that, and I think every year it’s getting worse and worse. We’re losing that. I don’t know what it’s going to be in 10 years.
“It might just be a big playground. It’s going to be fun, but the essence of competition and the game is fading away.”
The sixth-year pro expressed gratitude for the Jazz organization, but in the same thought couldn't help continuing to share frustration.
"I'm always going to be about winning," he said. "I don't even want to talk about it. I just want people that are paid to talk about it, people that are paid to coach, people that are paid to do their job to do it right. It's not even about me. Just about in general. I'm just talking in general."
Gobert said Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey shared in his frustration and would try to figure out how the big fella didn’t get voted in. Since he didn’t make the team, Gobert will miss out on a $1 million bonus, but he said Friday, “It’s my legacy. I don’t even play for money. I don’t even care about that bonus. It’s just about my legacy. Everything I do, I do it to win.
It would be good if I could get some reward for that at one point. I've said over and over it's about winning. (Coaches) know it. They know what they did. They're not stupid. They know."
Gobert said “it would be good” to get selected as an injury replacement, “but it’s still not the same as being selected.” (a few hours after Gobert made his comments, the NBA announced that injured Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will be replaced by Brooklyn Nets guard D'Angelo Russell)
Moments later, Gobert's emotions ultimately spilled out.
On Thursday night, Snyder told ESPN's Tim MacMahon in part that Gobert "should absolutely be an All-Star" and that, "This is clear, and not subjective, and shows the All-Star system is flawed."
On Friday morning, Snyder was much more subdued, saying everyone who was selected was deserving. He did say that coaches missed a chance to honor Gobert's impact.
"The opportunities for us to reward defense, his impact on the floor outside of scoring and things like that offensively, he's been dominant," Snyder said.
The coach also noted Gobert's impact offensively, setting screens and putting pressure on the rim, even if he's not an elite scorer.
"We try to use him in that way... his teammates know that," Snyder said. "A lot of what he does offensively is selfless."
Soon after shootaround, word began to spread on Twitter of Gobert walking off in tears, and there was a wide spectrum of reaction. Most notably, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala mocked him for it.
"I guess I should cry too... no Charlotte?," Green wrote, and added some crying face emojis.
Iguodala added, "He gone cry in the car?"
Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas added, "Come on fam you are too big to be crying like that..."
Thomas later walked back his comments, saying, "I guess that was too soon lol. On some real (expletive) though i was just joking! This is twitter people don’t take this internet life so serious... I hope everybody at some point gets to experience being a all star it’s super dope! I hope he gets it at some point in his career. My bad Rudy I was joking around."
Before the game Friday, Snyder commented on Gobert's emotional reaction, saying, "With Rudy, that's who he is. He is a passionate human being. I love that about him. The fact that you saw that and I don't think that it is anything to be self-conscious about. He hasn't shown that externally to most people, but you see it in his competitiveness. That passion is what makes him who he is."