July 4, 2020 21h29
With the episode of the coronavirus behind him, Rudy Gobert looks to
There were the tweets of strangers. “I hate you”. “You have ruined the entire planet”. “You deserve this.” And then, there was the contempt from within his own locker room, the presumption that he had transmitted the coronavirus to one of his teammates, the assumption according to which his carelessness had, in any manner, caused the complete shutdown of the sports world.
After all of that, and more, the center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, remains standing upright.
The eyes of many observers will be watching Gobert when the season of the NBA, which was interrupted on march 11, when he became the first player in the league to get a positive result at the COVID-19, will be a giant step toward a revival, with the arrival of the teams at the Disney resort in central Florida over the next few days.
The Jazz will be a case fascinating to consider during this recovery, particularly with respect to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, a teammate and a star player who has obtained a positive result on a screening test shortly after the shutdown of activities and who has not hidden his displeasure at the place of Gobert – and the possibility that they would be able to live together again.
“I’m happy now. I feel in a good state of mind, you know,” said Gobert Friday.
“And I’m happy to feel the joy of playing basketball with my team and feel that the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to jump on the court and try to win the championship. This is the goal. And to be honest, with everything that we lived as a team and as human beings, this would be a spectacular comeback.”
Gobert responded to questions for about 11 minutes. He talked about his relationship with Mitchell (“It will never be perfect,” he said, acknowledging the tensions that were no longer a secret).
He talked about the possibility of signing a lucrative contract extension (“I don’t plan on starting now,” he said.)
He talked about his healing of the virus, which continues, at least in connection with his sense of smell that he has not quite found (“Feel, it is something that I wanted for granted, too. It is back now, it is back to 80 percent, I’m not worried”, he said.)
He spoke gently, calmly, thoughtfully. And even if he is the double prize-winner of the honour awarded to the defensive player of the year in the NBA, he has not pushed any issue.
“It is certain that when you have the whole world judge you, who threatens you or who sends you a lot of negative energy and other things like that, I would not say that it is easy for a human being,” said Gobert.
“But at the same time, people are judging you based of the perception that they have and the perception they receive. Sometimes, this can be a photo, a video, an interview, an action.”
In this case, this is pretty much what happened.
A photo, a video, an interview, an action. This was the start of the downfall.
It was the morning of Monday 9 march. Before leaving a press conference in Salt Lake City in anticipation of a game against Detroit, Gobert has touched all the tape recorders that had been placed before him on a table, the devices that the journalists covering the activities of the Jazz used. He wanted to make a joke. When he received a positive result two days later, nobody was laughing.
The Jazz was in Oklahoma City, a few moments of the start of his game against the Thunder, when the news of the positive test of Gobert has been noised abroad. The match was cancelled. The same evening, the season has been suspended.
Just like that, Gobert had become a negative center of attention.
Gobert has also started to try to show that he had remorse. He gave$ 200,000 to a foundation established to help part-time employees for the Jazz, who had lost income because of the matches had been cancelled. More money – approximately$ 310,000 – went to families affected by the pandemic in Utah and Oklahoma City, as well as in France, its country of origin. He has recorded a public service announcement for the league.
“I will not be able to control the perception that all people will have of me, but I can control my actions,” said Gobert.
“I can control the things that I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, to the outside of the short. All of this, I can control it and that is all that really matters to me.”
For his part, Mitchell says that his relationship with Gobert has improved.
“At this point, it’s going well,” said Mitchell. “We’re going there ready to play basketball.”
The Jazz is assured of being in the playoffs. The team will be deprived of Bojan Bogdanovic, who was injured, for the rest of the season, but has enough depth to aspire to great honors in the Western conference.
And Gobert is expected that things are going well between him and Mitchell, at least on the court.
“The moment that we show respect for one another, that we share the same goals and that we are doing both what is best for the team, that’s all that counts. And you know, I think that this is what we have done in recent seasons and that is what we intend to continue to do.”