Star center Rudy Gobert criticized unspecified Utah Jazz teammates for playing selfishly instead of putting a priority on winning after Saturday’s 108-95 loss to the Clippers.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring,” Gobert told ESPN after Utah’s fourth loss in its past five games. “That’s what it is.
“Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Gobert was especially disappointed that the 44-29 Jazz came out flat — trailing by 14 points after the first quarter — in a game that could ultimately decide which of these two squads will enjoy home-court advantage if they meet in the playoffs. The 44-30 Clippers closed to within a half-game of the Jazz in the fight for the Western Conference’s fourth seed.
It’s an issue that also concerned Jazz coach Quin Snyder, whose team has too frequently gotten off to slow starts.
“It’s something we’ve talked about,” Snyder said. “It’s a question for our guys, frankly. We can give enough attention to it and talk about it. Ultimately, when we step on the floor, we have to be ready to play with a level of intensity.
“It’s not that we’re not playing hard. We don’t necessarily play hard together when we need to. I think that type of collective effort, when you get in big games against good teams and physical teams, that’s what you need.”
Gobert, who led Utah with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 14 rebounds and two blocks in Saturday’s loss, stressed that the Jazz need to focus on playing smart, tough basketball and not on individual statistics.
“I think everybody needs to think about making plays for the team, making winning plays, before thinking about how many points we’re going to score and stuff like that,” Gobert said. “Everybody has to be ready to sacrifice. In the playoffs, it’s not going to be pretty. There’s going to be some games where you don’t score. But are you going to take a charge for a teammate? Are you going to come and box out DeAndre [Jordan] for a teammate?
“It works with all of us. And we do it, we do it, but we do it by stretches. We need to do it right from the beginning of the game. I think when we do that, we’re very, very, very good.”
Small forward Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s lone All-Star and the face of the franchise, was not available to the media after the loss. A Jazz media relations representative cited a team policy of not making players available if they exit a game early because of an injury.
Hayward left Saturday’s game for good midway through the fourth quarter because of a left quadriceps contusion. X-rays were negative. Snyder said he thinks Hayward is “fine.”
Gobert did not single out any teammates for criticism, but he did express support for Hayward after Hayward had an off game, going scoreless until less than five minutes remained in the first half. Hayward finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
“Gordon is going to be fine,” Gobert said. “He’s human. There’s going to be some games where he don’t make shots. I keep telling him to stay aggressive and try to make the right play and everything comes. I think he did a good job in the second half. We’ve just got to be there for each other.”