SALT LAKE CITY — A sun-kissed Rudy Gobert returned to practice on Wednesday, following a weeklong break.
While some of his peers were in Charlotte, North Carolina for NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, the Utah Jazz center enjoyed fresh coconut water on the beach in an undisclosed location.
His Jazz teammates Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and others also used the time away to clear their minds and sneak in quality moments with loved ones before the final stretch of the season gets underway.
“I think it was great for me to get some sun, first of all,” Gobert said. “To be able to recharge and clear the mind for a little bit.”
Dante Exum has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, but went through portions of the first practice before his status gets determined on Thursday. Utah (32-25) returns to face a tough Oklahoma City Thunder team on the road Friday at 7:30 p.m. MT on ESPN. Everyone around Jazzland is hopeful that Exum will be ready to go as he’s also coming off spending some time in the sun.
“It was great,” Gobert said of seeing Exum in practice. “I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot.”
Although Jazz players were scattered throughout different parts of the world for All-Star break, some of them stayed connected through group chat messages. They certainly were in touch when Donovan Mitchell drew laughs for his failed attempt at an off-the-glass dunk during the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.
“We have to communicate for that,” Gobert said, smiling.
Joe Ingles also bonded with family during the time off and even made an announcement about his 2-year-old son, Jacob, being diagnosed with autism in order to bring awareness to the issue.
Jazz players got up and down the floor with a 5-on-5 session during practice while adjusting to things that did and didn’t work during the first half of the season as well.
“For me, it’s always been a good time to get away, spend some time with my family and obviously re-energize a little bit,” Ingles said. “Guys that have injuries, it just gives you a week to get back to as close to yourself as at the start of the year as you can and then get ready for the last portion of the season to finish off strong."3 comments on this story
The Jazz are currently in sixth place of the Western Conference standings while the Thunder sit in third place with All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George playing at an elite level. Utah is fully aware of the things that did and didn’t work in the beginning, with coach Quin Snyder using the downtime to dissect the early film, but now it’s just about the roster being at full strength with Exum continuing to recover as they look to make another strong run late in the season.
Vacation is now over.
“A lot of it is just having everyone healthy again, which we seem to speak about every year, but we had all three of our point guards out for a stretch,” Ingles said. “We’ve had different guys in and out kind of all year so it will be nice to have everyone out there and be a full team, be a full group and get out there and play together for more than a few games. So, yeah, it’s just the same thing, keep getting better.”