WASHINGTON — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder started to answer before the question was even finished. He had heard “underappreciated” and “Rudy Gobert” and that was enough for him to know where things were going.
“Rudy needs to stop feeling underappreciated,” Snyder said slightly in jest. “I’m tired of him feeling underappreciated. He got appreciated this week, right? He's appreciated.”
On Monday, the NBA named Gobert the Western Conference Player of the Week — an award that is often reserved for the offensive stars of the league like LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, and even Utah's own Donovan Mitchell.
“I’m proud of him,” Snyder said. “The reason he’s playing well is he is thinking about competing. It’s a great honor for him."
And it's one that Gobert said he a little surprised to get. He doesn't pay too close attention to the weekly award — but said it was a "cool" thing to get.
"It's a great honor," Gobert said. "It's something I appreciate. But at the same time, I'm doing the same thing I've been doing every week. I'm going to keep doing it and I'm focused on the team."
In four games last week, Gobert averaged 16.5 points on 69.4 percent from the field, 15.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, helping Utah to a 3-1 record. Those stats, though, aren’t all that off his season averages of 15.4 points (on 65.3 percent shooting), 12.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
So why this week?
It might be because he managed to be the best player on the court during Utah’s win over Brooklyn on Saturday — putting together a dominant 23-point, 17-rebound — despite fighting an illness.
Following the game, Gobert sat in front of his locker and vomited into a garbage can multiple times. But you’d never have thought he was anything less than 100 percent the way he controlled that game on both the offensive and defensive end.
“Just try to give everything I had,” Gobert said. “I haven't missed a game, so I didn’t want to.”
Or maybe the NBA is starting to see what his teammates and coaches — not to mention his fans — have seen for so long: stats only tell part of the story when talking about Gobert.
“It’s not the blocks that you are worried about, it’s the alters,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “He probably alters about a dozen shots a game.”
Actually, that number is probably a little higher.
Gobert contests 13.8 two-point shots per game (third highest in the NBA), according to NBA.com. And those numbers don’t include the times when just the thought of him contesting a shot forces have players adjusting how they shoot.
“I know that his contests are one good measure if a shot us altered,” Snyder said. “I guess you can go back and watch the trajectory of the ball — some guys shoot the ball higher than others. My guess is Rudy makes guys shoot the ball higher at times.”
That often leads to misses. And those help lead to Jazz wins.
Something Snyder and Gobert's Jazz teammates definitely appreciate.