Rudy Gobert faced a lot of anger after his positive test for COVID-19 led to a league-wide shutdown, and some of it came from his own locker room. The Jazz center spoke about about the experience Friday during an 11-minute session with reporters, including Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
“I’m happy now. I’m in a good place, you know,” he said. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”
Gobert was not only the NBA’s first player diagnosed with the coronavirus — he became an object lesson in the need to take the virus seriously. Two days before the positive test, he made light of an NBA directive about distancing by touching every reporter’s tape recorder that was on a table in front of him. There was an immediate public backlash for making light of the situation, which increased once he tested positive.
He took steps to atone for the mistake, donating $200K to a fund helping part-time workers at Jazz games and another $310K to families in Utah, Oklahoma City and his native France who were affected by the pandemic.
“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”
Gobert addressed several other topics during the interview:
On the strained relationship with teammate Donovan Mitchell, who tested positive shortly after Gobert:
“As long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters. And, you know, I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we plan on continuing doing.”
On the negative reaction he faced after the shutdown, both on social media and with some teammates:
“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you and threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being. But at the same time, people just judge you on the perception they have and the perception they get. Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action.”
On his recovery from the virus, which still isn’t complete:
“Smelling, I took that for granted too. It’s back now, it’s back at 80%, I’m not worried.”
On the possibility of a super-max deal, which may happen this offseason:
“I don’t plan on leaving (Utah) right now.”