Gobert dissects requirements of FIBA game, underwhelming season with Timberwolves

Giorgos Kyriakidis
Staff Writer
2023-09-02 14:57

Rudy Gobert named the things France can take pride in after an unsuccessful World Cup. He also explained why the FIBA game can be more demanding than the NBA, reflected on his maiden season with Minnesota and praised one of his teammates for his skills and work ethic.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

Rudy Gobert couldn't change much for France in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Les Bleus are set to leave Jakarta for destinations other than Manila, where the tournament's final stage will be played. Some of the players have already planned a quick trip to Bali to get a taste of Indonesia's most famous resort. 

However, France's performances in the World Cup didn't remotely resemble the natural beauty of picturesque beaches and spectacular sunsets. The blowout loss to Canada and the upset suffered against Latvia forced Vincent Collet and his players to play for places 17-32. 

Gobert appeared before the media in the mixed zone of the Indonesia arena for the last time on Saturday, following France's 10-point win over the Ivory Coast. The big man racked up 17 points and 8 rebounds in 21 minutes in the finale of the tournament for the disenchanted French side. 

However, the 2024 Paris Olympics present France with a good chance to bounce back and return to the podium, as they did in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. 

"We have to keep building good habits, understand our role, and withstand toughness," Gobert noted.

"When things aren't going our way, we have to be mentally stronger. We can find a million excuses, but we haven't accomplished maturity yet. Hopefully, we'll do that soon."

The Timberwolves center thinks France needs to regroup and prepare in the best way possible for the Olympics. His team's early exit allows him to focus on his second season with the Wolves, but Gobert has picked up some useful learnings from an almost traumatic experience. 

"I think our defense is one of the things we take a lot of pride in. We have to build on that. Whatever happens offensively, we must learn that we shouldn't carry anything from offense to defense," he argued. 

Gobert was a borderline first-round pick (No.27) in 2013, but he gradually carved out a great NBA career. He became a three-time All-Star and DPOY award recipient while playing with the Utah Jazz. At the same time, he's not willing to neglect his NT duties. Since 2014, he has only missed the 2017 EuroBasket with France. 

Transitioning from the NBA to FIBA play and vice-versa has become second nature to Gobert throughout the years. For a player who has barely played professionally in Europe (Gobert suited up with Cholet between 2011 and 2013), there are several things he can combine from both settings.

"In FIBA game, you have to think even more, look around you more," he observed. "In the NBA, sometimes you don't have to think as much because there's more space. Here, you can't be successful without the minimum of thinking."

As an expert on defense, Gobert, 31, doesn't think it's necessarily harder to defend in FIBA game. Still, it's more difficult to score in international play.

"There are no defensive three seconds, but it's still harder to score in the FIBA game," he said. 

Now that France is out of contention for a top spot, Gobert looks a bit confused as to which teams can go all the way. Looking at the standings in the group held in Jakarta, there are currently four teams that have almost equal chances of making the quarter-finals. On the last game day, Canada play Spain and Latvia take on Brazil. The winners advance, while the losers go home. 

"There are so many upsets," Gobert noticed. "Obviously, now that we're out, USA are the clear favorite. But Canada and Slovenia are playing great, Brazil beat Canada, and also Latvia can win," he added.

Last summer, Gobert was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, his 2022-23 season didn't pan out in an ideal way. Gobert recorded his lowest numbers since his third season in Utah (2015-16), averaging 13.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 70 games. 

"It was a lot of adjustment to make, both on and off the court," he reflected. "It took me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I don't think I played as well as I could have," he admitted.

"But I kept fighting, working, being a good teammate and leader. Now, I'm feeling better physically and mentally. I'm not in the process of adjusting to a new system and team."

Gobert believes that the coming season will be different, both for him and the team, mostly because Minnesota will hardly be plagued by that many injuries and Karl-Anthony Towns will probably play more than 29 games, as he did last year. 

"I think what we went through as a group last year will pay dividends this year. Half the team played in the World Cup and I'm very happy to see guys represent their countries. The international experience will help our team too," Gobert continued.

Credit FIBA

The big man can even name a similarity between France's defensive principles and what the Wolves need in order to get better next year and achieve higher than just making the playoffs. 

"I think we have the potential to be really good. We can be one of the top defensive teams. It's similar to the French national team. If we come in with the mindset of doing whatever it takes to help the team win and hold each other accountable while doing it, we're going to have a surprisingly good year," he said. 

Gobert pointed out he's not too worried about what other people think of him and whether he's performing according to what's expected of him. Nevertheless, he likes that he's being judged on the basis of his NBA status and accomplishments, which speak for themselves. That's why he seems to be embracing any type of criticism.

"I love that they're judging me with high expectations," he said. "When you accomplish good things, people hold you to high standards. And I hold myself to even higher standards. It's all a blessing for me. I'm excited to come back and be the best Rudy I can be."

During his preparation for the World Cup with France, Gobert had workouts with his Timberwolves teammate Luka Garza, who was about to make his Bosnian NT debut in the Olympic Pre-Qualifiers. Bosnia didn't qualify for the Qualifying tourney, but Garza and Gobert had the chance to enhance their chemistry.

"I love Luka," the Frenchman exclaimed. "He's a great guy, works hard, and is really dedicated. I love being around that type of guy because it's always fun and positive."

If Gobert's last season was a tad below expectations, Garza made heads turn thanks to his efficiency, as he averaged 6.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in less than 9 minutes of playing time with Minnesota.

"As a player, he has really impressed me this last year and even this summer. He's a skilled player, shoots the ball well, and is pretty strong as well," Gobert stressed.

"The FIBA game is a bit different than the NBA, but he can do great in both. He's earned more and more minutes, becoming an important part of our team. Work has paid off." 



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