On the eve of the NBA’s All-Star reserves announcement, Rudy Gobert was only thinking about the team that matters most.
“It would be a blessing, obviously,” Gobert said, contemplating the possibility of being named an All-Star for the second time in as many years. “But it’s really a reward for what we’ve been doing as a team. When I look at All-Stars and Defensive Player of the Year, all the individual stuff is not possible without the team and what we do as a group. I don’t know how many [All-Stars] we’re going to have, but regardless of whoever is selected, it’s rewarding for the work we do as a team and as an organization.”
What is the reward for a 25-6 start to the season, the best record in the NBA and the best start in franchise history?
Gobert, guard Donovan Mitchell will be joining head coach Quin Snyder at next month’s All-Star game in Atlanta.
It is the second All-Star selection for both Gobert and Mitchell. It also marks the fourth time the Jazz have had multiple representatives in the midseason showcase during the 2000s (John Stockton and Karl Malone in 2000, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur in 2007, and Mitchell and Gobert last season).
“The biggest thing is it equates to our team’s success,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think coming into the season we were looking at it. For us, we’re going out there together and doing whatever it takes to win.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 24, 2021
The Jazz have won plenty so far this season. For the first time in team history, the Jazz were the first squad in the NBA to reach the 25-win mark. They’ve won 21 of those games by double-digits.
By virtue of having the West’s best record, Snyder will pilot the Western Conference All-Stars in Atlanta, the first time a Jazz coach has been named the All-Star coach since Frank Layden in 1984.
And Snyder will no doubt be thrilled to see his players sharing that spotlight on March 7.
The Eastern Conference reserves are: James Harden, Julius Randle, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, Ben Simmons, and Nikola Vucevic.
The Western Conference All-Stars reserves are: Mitchell, Gobert, Chris Paul, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Mitchell, Zion Williamson, and Anthony Davis.
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 24, 2021
Davis is battling a right calf strain, which could open the door for an injury replacement.
That might help lessen the disappointment that Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley was not named among the reserves. More than anything, Mitchell and his teammates wanted to hear Conley’s name called Tuesday.
“I’m praying Mike gets in,” Mitchell said the night before the reserves were announced. “For a guy like him who has do so many things in his career, on and off the floor, he deserves this. I think he’ll make it. I’m banking on it. He’s a guy that puts in the work time and time again. I think it’s going to pay off and pay dividends.”
— Mike Conley (@MCONLEY10) February 24, 2021
Conley has been called the best player in the league to have never made an All-Star game — a moniker he was hoping to shed this season.
“For me, I’d rather ditch that label,” he said earlier this week.
The point guard had said making his first All-Star team would “mean the world” to him. But Conley was among the first to congratulate his teammates on their selections. He had also said he was happy being mentioned in the All-Star conversation at age 33, especially after some struggles last season and now playing some of the best basketball of his career, and doing it his way.
“Not trying to score 40 points a game, and not trying to take 20 shots. I’m doing it in the way I know I can affect the game and play the game and be unselfish and efficient and be the two-way player I’ve always been,” he said. “To be looked at as an All-Star is pretty cool.”
The final All-Star teams will be determined early next month when team captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant draft from the pool of players. Snyder is set to coach Team LeBron.
The Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and All-Star game will all take place March 7.
After that, Snyder and his players will return their focus to the team that matters most to them.
“We’re thankful and honored,” Mitchell said. But the end goal is still the end goal for us as a team.”