SALT LAKE CITY — Like the rest of the world, Rudy Gobert was glued to the television screen on Thursday as he watched Ernie Johnson and TNT’s Inside The NBA crew announce the 2019 West NBA All-Star reserves.
There was Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, LaMarcus Aldridge and finally Karl-Anthony Towns, but no Gobert.
As he sat in disbelief at his Utah home, the phone rang from his mother, Corinne.
“It was a rough night,” Gobert admitted. “My mom called me crying, it was tough but it is what it is.”
Gobert thought about taking his frustrations to Twitter, as he typed several drafts then deleted them, before ultimately deciding to stay away.
He also shared a candid conversation with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey about the All-Star snub, which ultimately cost him $1 million in contract incentives.
“I’m sorry,” Lindsey told Gobert. “It’s B.S. I’ll try to find out what happened.”
Gobert grew emotional when describing the experience the following day during shootaround, as his media scrum was cut short when it brought him to tears — especially as it pertained to his mother.
Players around the league shared mixed emotions about him crying in the public spotlight, notably Golden State’s Draymond Green who trolled him via Twitter. However, only a select few have truly witnessed the sacrifices Gobert has made to try to earn that All-Star recognition that ended in disappointment.
“I think it’s disrespectful,” Gobert said. “I feel disrespected.”
French osteopath and physical therapist Fabrice Gautier is one of the ones behind the scenes of Team Gobert that truly understands where that feeling comes from.
“All the players have their personal story with their single moms, they try to make a better life, they try to achieve goals,” said Gautier, owner of LA Main Physical Therapy and former osteopath of the French National Basketball Team.
“He’s a very goal-oriented type of person,” Gautier said. “Of course he wants to be an All-Star, but I think maybe, and I’m just touching from myself, but maybe what hurt him the most was probably not to get the recognition from his peers.”
Sure, the average fan sees No. 27 defending the paint for the Jazz on a nightly basis, but there’s a scientific approach to keeping Gobert’s million-dollar, 7-foot-1, 245-pound body intact to perform on an elite level. He’s averaging a career-best 15.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks along with a league-leading 65 percent from the field.
Gobert’s go-to people on the Jazz’s medical staff are massage therapist Doug Birrell and Mike Elliott, vice president of performance health care, on a daily basis.
Birrell even comes to Gobert's home country of France with him during the offseason for his summer camp, while Elliot is constantly on the same page with literally everything Gobert has going on with his body.
“I really like to work with him and I love him as a person, too,” Gobert said of Birrell. “I try to work with everyone, but I usually work with Doug and Mike and even if I don’t work with Mike, I communicate with Mike to make sure he knows what I’m doing and we’re all on the same page.”
In addition to them, Gobert sees Gautier every three weeks for regular sessions, in coordination with the Jazz’s staff. They do 90-minute body tune-ups to make sure things are functioning properly through accessory movements, mobility and fluidity to keep him stable from head to toe. They are scheduled to meet again next week, but treatments are never the same. It depends on what happens within that three-week window to keep his body going.
LeBron James’ Uninterrupted sports programming network captured one of Gobert’s recent sessions with Gautier, which included a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) technique that resulted in a loud pop in his neck.
Although it seemed intense visually, Gautier insists that it was only three percent of what they actually do.
“With my background, I’m a little bit like a body mechanic,” said Gautier, who has also worked with numerous others such as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and Orlando Magic All-Star Nikola Vucevic. “I’m going to look at the whole body, not just that thing or that injury or that tendonitis, so part of my treatment incorporates a lot of different things and we went on Uninterrupted with that visual and the sound was probably more dramatic.”
The Gobert neck footage was captured in January while visiting Gautier in his Los Angeles office as the Jazz were in town to face the Clippers. Gobert was hit in the face during a Jazz game against Chicago on Jan. 12 and continued to feel the lingering effects afterward, so he knew something was wrong right away before going to see Gautier. The pain disappeared after that session.
“Usually it pops a little bit and it’s loud, but it doesn’t hurt,” Gobert said. “It just gets you back and then it feels good.”
Gautier has known Gobert for years through his work with the French National Basketball Team, but didn’t start working with him regularly until 2016 after treating a sprained ankle.
This offseason, Gobert was in Los Angeles training for weeks with not only Gautier but also a team of others including nutritionist Phil Goglia, recovery specialist Barrence Baytos and Olympic weightlifting coach Michael Casey.
“The same way you’re gonna have 16 or 20 engineers next to a Formula 1, Ferrari or McLaren, we’re trying to teach the young athletes to assemble a team around them so they benefit from it,” Gautier said.
After being sidelined for 26 games last season with a pair of uncontrollable knee injuries, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year’s name has yet to hit the injury report this season — knock on wood — and he hopes to keep it that way.
“It’s all about feeling good and being able to play a full season and be able to be at full strength. My body is very important,” Gobert said. “When you have a guy like Fabrice, that has that skill that he has that can help and make sure your body stays in the right place and everything is right, it’s really a plus.
“And also, we have a good training staff that coordinates with him and he’s great,” he continued. “It’s great to have that communication and it’s been working very well for me the last few years, besides those two injuries that I had that wasn’t my fault. It’s been good and I’m going to keep working with him.”
So as Gobert’s raw emotion was on display after the All-Star snub, yeah, it was partly because of his mother, but also because of all the work he put in to accomplish that goal.
Even while coming up short, it still won’t stop him from continuing to trust the process of treating his body as a luxury.4 comments on this story
“It’s hard for people to understand because they only see the top of the iceberg, they don’t see all the work you put in behind, they don’t know that I’m 7-feet, they see a 7-feet guy that’s athletic but they don’t know all the work I put in to be able to do that on the court,” Gobert said. “It’s fine and every person that’s successful, people don’t know what they go through behind the scenes and it’s all the work behind the scenes that gets you to the top.
“People don’t really know and the fans don’t really know,” he said. “They watch the highlights, they’re happy and that’s it. I don’t blame them. It is what it is, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep helping my team."