Gobert smacked a bottle off the scorer’s table in frustration after being called for his second foul with 9 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter against the Houston Rockets. He was quickly ejected by referee Courtney Kirkland.
“I just came in to try to play basketball,” Gobert said after the Jazz routed the Rockets 118-91 despite his early exit. “Fouls were called, and I had a stupid reaction. I think I can blame myself more than anything for that one.”
Gobert was called for a foul on the opening tip despite the Rockets getting possession. His second foul came when Houston’s James Harden flopped while Gobert was fighting for post position.
Gobert is the only player ejected in the first three minutes of a game over the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The last time a player was called for a foul on the opening tip was on Nov. 3, 2017, when Detroit’s Andre Drummond was whistled for a loose-ball foul.
NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe, who attended the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena, declined to comment.
Crew chief Tom Washington told a pool reporter that Gobert was ejected after only one technical because his reaction was “too demonstrative.”
“He was issued a technical foul because as he was coming off the floor he forcefully swung at items on the scorer’s table and those three items came out [onto] the floor a considerable amount,” Washington said. “It was just too demonstrative and we had to take action on that.”
Gobert, who worked out and watched the game in the Jazz weight room after leaving the court, acknowledged that his reaction was too extreme.
“Just frustration, I think a lot of frustration,” Gobert said. “I’ve got to be smarter. It didn’t cost the team tonight, but it can cost the team, losing me in the first quarter. It’s not the smartest thing to do.”
The NBA fined Gobert $15,000 for his critical comments after Sunday’s loss to the Miami Heat. Gobert was whistled for a foul on Heat guard Dwyane Wade with 3.2 seconds left in the game, a call the next day’s last-two-minute report deemed correct, and Wade made the two free throws to give Miami the victory.
“I just want it to be consistent, at one point,” Gobert told reporters after the game in Miami. “Every night is the same s—. Every night has been the same s—. If you call something one way, you have to call it the other way. Once they start doing that, I’m going to have a little more respect. I’m just tired of it. Every game is the same.”
Gobert, the Defensive Player of the Year, implied the Jazz receive unfavorable treatment from officials because Utah is a small-market team.
“They can’t be deciding the issue of a game just like that,” Gobert said. “If you call a foul on the play on D-Wade, Donovan [Mitchell] got pushed harder right before. But he’s not Dwyane Wade, it’s fine.”
Utah coach Quin Snyder said he didn’t consider that there could be a connection between Gobert’s critical comments and the big man being called for a foul in the first second of the following game.
“Never crossed my mind, to be honest with you,” said Snyder, whose team has won four of its past five games to improve to 13-13. “I wish Rudy would have been able to stay in the game. He knows he needs to keep his composure regardless of what happens, because we need him. But tonight, to me, more than what happened to Rudy, the story was what [Derrick Favors] and Ekpe [Udoh] were able to do for our group.”
Favors, who frequently starts at power forward but came off the bench Thursday, led the Jazz with 24 points and 10 rebounds against the Rockets while playing a larger role because of Gobert’s ejection. Udoh, a reserve center, had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks while playing a season-high 19 minutes in the win.
“I’m very proud of the guys tonight, especially the guys that came in that usually don’t get a lot of minutes, like Ekpe,” Gobert said. “He did an unbelievable job tonight. Derrick stepped it up, too. Just a great win.”