Utah center and reigning NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert was moved to tears Friday when discussing his disappointment about not being selected for the All-Star Game, saying his omission suggests that excelling on defense isn’t valued.
Gobert is fourth in the NBA in blocks per game, and fifth in the league in rebounds per game. He’s also shooting a league-high 65 percent from 2-point range this season.
“I feel disrespected,” Gobert told reporters in Salt Lake City. “Disrespectful, not only towards me but towards the team, the organization and towards the game. All the coaches preach about defense. Every day they talk about defense, they talk about how important it is to get stops in order to win basketball games. And when it’s time to vote, they they’re not able to reward the best defensive player in the world.”
Gobert was not selected by the league’s coaches as an All-Star reserve; those picks were unveiled Thursday, though the vote totals were not disclosed. He also finished 17th in the weighted rankings for the three Western Conference frontcourt starting spots, which were announced last week.
“Rudy deserved to be named an All-Star,” Jazz President Steve Starks wrote on Twitter. “Complete non-sense and we need more integrity and accountability. If the coaches vote (then) their ballots should be made public.”
The Jazz likely feel they were snubbed twice. Neither Gobert nor standout Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging 22.5 points per game, were picked for the Feb. 17 All-Star Game in Charlotte.
“I don’t want to be focused on those things,” Gobert said. “But at (some) point, I would like to get some recognition.”
In a tweet to his teammate, Mitchell said he and Gobert were “robbed.”
Many centers in recent years, including Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and the Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee, have said they feel like the NBA All-Star voting process makes it extremely hard for players at their position to get a fair shot at making the team. The league has a system that has players fall into two categories for All-Star balloting — backcourt and frontcourt, with nothing specific for the centers.
Gobert said he knows offense is easier to market than defense. But he also said that his not making the All-Star team sends a bad message to kids who watch the game as well.
“You’re telling them that defense doesn’t matter, that winning doesn’t matter,” said Gobert, who spoke for several minutes Friday before emotions overcame him. “I don’t think it’s great for the future of the league.”
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