Rudy Gobert in Minnesota, a new challenge to change dimension

Rudy Gobert in Minnesota, a new challenge to change dimension



A page turns for Rudy Gobert, after nine seasons at Utah Jazz. Thursday, October 20, in Oklahoma City, the Frenchman will begin his tenth year in the NBA, the first adorned with new colors: the blue and white of the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I am very excited to open a new chapter, he rejoiced, on September 27, at a pre-season press conference. I’m excited about this new adventure, the very talented team and what we can do.”

To afford the recent vice-champion of Europe, the Minneapolis franchise has sacrificed a lot. In the NBA, transfers do not exist, clubs exchange players. In this case, for Gobert, the Timberwolves released five players in early July (Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler) and given up four first-round picks in the coming years (2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029).

On the banks of the Mississippi, the native of Saint-Quentin (Aisne) will have to prove that he can turn his new franchise around. It is also an opportunity to meet the expectations linked to his huge contract, signed in December 2020 and which will last until 2026 with Wolves, since in the NBA, when you buy a player, you buy out his contract. In this case, that of the French in made the twelfth highest-paid NBA player this season ($38 million). “The goal is the title. I didn’t come here just to be in a good team, I came here to go to the final”he trumpeted at his presentation press conference on July 6.

“I will do everything to help this team go higher.”

Rudy Gobert

at a press conference

In nine years with the Jazz, Rudy Gobert has never passed the second round of the playoffs (2017, 2018 and 2021). He was even eliminated in the first round last year. At 30, time is starting to press for the former Choletais. In Minnesota, he will be surrounded by a talented and ambitious young guard: Karl-Anthony Towns (26), Anthony Edwards (21) and D’Angelo Russell (26).

“I don’t think there’s a ceiling. When you look at the squad and the talent we have, it’s pretty amazing”savored the Habs, on September 27, when talking about his new teammates who returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 last season.

It is especially his association with the triple All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns which will be particularly scrutinized. Contrary to a modern game resolutely turned towards “small-ball” in recent years (an assembly of small outside players) like the Golden State Warriors, reigning champions, the team between the two pivots stirs up curiosity.

With 23.2 career points per game, Towns is as gifted in attack as Gobert is efficient in defense (15.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on average last season). The first is skilful behind the arc (41% in 2021-2022) while the second dominates in the racket.

Minnesota Timberwolves French pivot Rudy Gobert, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 6, 2022. (ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP)

“We complement each other, I think. We can make each other better, in defense and in attack.believes the triple best NBA defender. There’s going to be a learning curve but with the passing, shooting and unique qualities of a player the size of ‘KAT’, I’m sure I’m going to allow him to be even better.” “His strengths are my weaknesses and his weaknesses are my strengths”completed Karl Anthony Towns.

Unfortunately, between Rudy Gobert’s late Eurobasket return and Karl-Anthony Towns contracting lung disease, the two players have only been lined up together once in preparation, on their last outing. Defeated by the Brooklyn Nets (112-102), the two pivotal holders accumulated 31 points and 17 rebounds. “They had a few sessions together but not as many as we would have liked, admitted coach Chris Finch. The chemistry between the two seems quite good. They have to be on the same wavelength and we create a dynamic around them.”

The Wolves season, never crowned NBA champions, will greatly depend on it. Just like the career of Rudy Gobert, devoid of titles since his transition to the professionals.

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