Despite making the NBA All-Star team for the first time this season, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has had to overcome public shaming after becoming the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s positive test ultimately triggered the league’s suspension on March 11 then damaged his relationship with teammate Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive the next day.
After having time to reflect on the situation, Gobert says their relationship is better and he’s ready to put this behind him to help the Jazz push for a title during the Orlando restart.
“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you or 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,” Gobert said. “But, at the same time, people are just judging you on the perception they have and the perception you get from sometimes it can be one picture, one video or one interview, one action. So, people don’t really know you.
“People around me, they really know me, they know who I am and that’s what matters to me,” he added. “At the end of the day, I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions, I can control the things I do for the people around me, the community. The things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court, all that stuff I can control it and that’s what really matters to me.”
As far as his relationship with Mitchell, the two stars say they’re “good” and can co-exist moving forward in Utah. Mitchell said it was no secret that he was upset with Gobert’s initial careless behavior, such as touching the microphones of reporters following a press conference, before becoming aware of his infection, but they’ll be ready to play when it’s time to clock in.
“You look at all duos and for us it’s like, there’s going to be tension. There’s going to be back and forth,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I feel like I should be right here. He feels like he should be right there, but it’s always going to happen. It happens on every team, doesn’t matter if they win championships or they’re a last-place team, it’s always gonna happen. So, I feel like even in a work environment, you’re not gonna always get along or go out to eat or hang out with your teammates.”
With the NBA’s July 30 restart quickly approaching, the Jazz are set to leave for Orlando on July 7. Gobert says he’s more comfortable with the bubble concept after extensive talks with members of the NBA and NBPA. He recently regained his smell after having trouble for three months after his diagnosis.
With all he’s been through lately, he sees basketball as a way to clear his mind.
“A lot of stuff is going on and it’s been a process, but I’m happy now that I’m in a good place and I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back,” Gobert said. “I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. To be honest, after everything we’ve been through, as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”