Sent to the Timberwolves after nine seasons in Utah, the French pivot took part in the press conference on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
It was expected, it’s official. After nine seasons in Utah, Rudy Gobert is traded to Minnesota against five players from four future first draft rounds. The news was confirmed on Wednesday by the two clubs concerned and the 30-year-old tricolor international pivot, three times best defender in the League, three times All Star, was presented at a press conference in stride. The opportunity for him to hammer home his (high) ambitions with the Timberwolves, to go back and forth on his association with Karl-Anthony Towns and to say how much he is “excited” arriving in Minneapolis, in a trade he hopes “win-win” for everyone.
His first words at the opening of the press conference : «I’m very excited to be here. Thanks to Tim (Connelly, president of basketball operations, Editor’s note) for believing in me, for putting me in this exceptional situation. I want to win ! Three days before the trade, Bouna (N’Diaye), my agent, told me that Tim and Minnesota were interested. I told him that I needed a day or two to think about it. After a day, I came back to him and told him that this was probably the most exciting basketball situation for me. A day later, the trade was happening… I’m excited to do a great job with the community, but also because I know this city has a big fan base, I’ve seen them talking to me on Twitter since nine years (smiles). I’m excited to play with talented young players. KAT (Karl Anthony Towns) is an amazing, unique player, I can’t even imagine the things we’ll be able to do on the court, the great things I’ll be able to do for the community, make Minnesota an even better place . Thank you all and I’m really excited.»
His feelings when first told of Minnesota’s interest : «I had been surprised because they weren’t part of the teams that we knew were interested. KAT and I have been rivals for years, we are unique and different players. The first time Bouna told me about it, I wondered if it could work with KAT… I thought about it every day, going to bed, more and more… And I told myself that it was the most exciting challenge for me, being associated with a player like KAT in an organization like the Timberwolves who really wants to win and do what it takes to achieve it, I couldn’t have hoped for a better situation, a more exciting situation. And it happened. Again, I’m very excited.»
The KAT/Gobert tandem : «Our differences will allow us to play together? Yes. And we will be unique. I don’t think there will be another team that can come up with what we’re going to come up with. My goal is to make Karl a better player on both sides of the pitch, to make his life easier and to help him become even better than he already is. And I think his presence will have the same effect for me. It will be the same with other players. Anthony Edwards has improved year on year, he is one of the most exciting players in the League, I am excited to play alongside him. There’s D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels is an excellent defender… It’s an absolutely unique base of young players. A very good coach, even if he complains about my screens all the time (smile). Now we’re on the same side so I’m excited! (…) Once again, we are both unique, we bring different things and I think that we can complement each other on both sides of the pitch, that we can improve on both sides of the pitch. . If you had told me this would happen a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it… But now that it’s real, I’m very excited. I have to allow him to be even more himself, even more dominant, to avoid mistakes for him, to share my knowledge and him his. It can only be positive for our team. We will be able to do a lot of things. The coach will be able to do interesting things. There are a lot of things that we will learn over the course of the season. His quality of passing, shooting, his technique, it’s unique for a player of his size. I think I will allow him to be even bigger and that will allow our team to win at the highest level. The goal is to win the title. I came for this. I didn’t come just to be a good team. I want to try to take this team to the Finals and do it. I will do everything I can to get these guys, this team over the course.»
A new environment after nine seasons in Utah : «There’s a lot of excitement. Utah is the only team I’ve played for, for nine seasons. I had great memories there, I’m very grateful for all the time I spent there, the relationships I made there, it’s my family, it won’t change. But I now have this opportunity, the challenge of coming to another team and trying to get it to move on, to discover a new being, a new community, it’s a lot of excitement. This is new to me, I spent nine years in Utah. It’s an incredible moment for me. Every day it will be a lot of excitement to meet people, to discover Minnesota… I love nature. It’s more lakes than mountains here, but it’s still awesome and I’m excited. (…) That’s exciting. From the beginning, I was the type to think that it would be cool to spend my whole career in the same team, but I also always wondered how cool it would be to change place, system, environment. Whatever happens, it will be positive. I spent nine amazing years in Utah. We built something unique and it will remain, even if we didn’t win the title. Those years were great years in terms of success, we have the most wins in all of the NBA (regular season) over the last four years… Even if there is no ring, it’s quite an accomplishment. All these years, this journey, have made me a better player, a better person, and now I’m in a situation where I hope I can take this team where we want to be. That’s exciting.»
The ingredients to go higher : «We must continue to create habits, the culture of winning. It started already last season. I played against a Minnesota team that was different from previous years in terms of the will to win. Even if they had won all their matches against us the season before (smile)! But I had the feeling that their will to win was stronger last season, the culture, the way of approaching the game… I had the feeling that something had changed. You have to give credit to these guys, Pat Beverley (who was part of the trade and was sent to Utah, editor’s note) and others brought toughness to this team. My goal is to bring that too and to be a leader, to give those habits that I was talking about. We discussed it with the coach: you have to have fun offensively, we have a good team on the offensive level (smile), but you have to create your habits defensively and play as a team. You have to like being together, like winning.»
D’Angelo Russell et Anthony Edwards : «I can help them to be open. The openings they will have with my screens or when I go to the circle and my passing game, I will have the opportunity to show it more this season, it will allow them to be better. And this without forgetting the “spacing” that KAT will offer and with our way of playing, they will have more open shots than in recent years. Also, they didn’t get a chance to throw a lot of lobs (smiles), but now we’re going to work on that. It’s a tough gun to defend…I’m excited, there’s so much to say, to do on the court, that’s what makes this situation unique: there are so many guns, so many ways to playing together will be good.»
Why Utah traded him : «It’s a good question. There was the departure of Quin (Snyder, the now ex-coach of Jazz, Ed). He had been there for eight years, it was a big part of what we did. The shooting window to win sometimes isn’t that big… For us at Utah, that’s what happened. I think the organization imagined that we exceeded this window. It will remain a very competitive team. But they thought with all the parts they could get with me, maybe it should go that way. It could ultimately be a win-win situation. In any case, they put me in a great situation to win, in a team that can, I hope, win the title. That’s what I’m grateful for. And them, I hope they will be able to progress and return to the level that was ours a few years ago. Admittedly, we never made it past the second round in the play-offs, but we finished top of the Western Conference, which doesn’t happen that often… It’s never simple, there are bound to be a lot of variables. and it’s hard to say which is right or wrong in such cases. Sometimes you just have to make decisions. That’s what they did. I’m grateful that they put me in a position where I can go for the win.»
Statements taken at a press conference