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New Orleans • This place will be dressed up for basketball's biggest party a week from now as the NBA's best players arrive for all-star weekend.
And Rudy Gobert, as much as he would liked to, won't be one of them.
The French Rejection, however, says he won't be thinking about his recent all-star rejection Wednesday night as he suits up in the Crescent City. What could have been, he says, won't concern him as much as what still might be.
"I'm already past that now," Gobert said about what many believe was an all-star snub for the Utah Jazz's shot-blocker extraordinaire and defensive anchor. "I have time for some more [all-star games]. I've got a few more years in my career."
Nevertheless, it seems unlikely Gobert will forget the feeling anytime soon. The young center "finds motivation everywhere," as Jazz coach Quin Snyder has said. Gobert wears No. 27 because that's how far he fell too far in his own mind on draft night in 2013. He reads most everything that's written about him, and it, the negative especially, seems to fuel him.
Asked in the wake of the all-star announcement if he thought Gobert's exclusion would provide extra motivation, Jazz forward Gordon Hayward chuckled.
"I don't think he needs it, to be honest," said Hayward, who will be part of next week's festivities in New Orleans after earning the first all-star selection of his career. "He's out to prove that he's the best big man in the NBA."
And Gobert will get a chance to match up with another one, Western Conference all-star starter Anthony Davis, as the Jazz take on the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center.
Davis has been sensational this season while the Pelicans have struggled. The 6-foot-10 big man is fifth in the NBA in scoring (27.9 points per game), second in blocks (2.4) and sixth in rebounds (12.1). His tuneup for Wednesday's meeting against Gobert and the Jazz: scoring 34 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocks in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.
But Snyder doesn't want his star center focused on that for the wrong reasons.
"I hope Rudy just thinks about Rudy," Snyder said. "When we've had situations where it's been about Rudy's matchup, I don't think Rudy is as focused as he can be. … The biggest thing for him is to not worry about everything else, just to play his game."
"It's not one game that's going to prove anything," he said. "I just want to keep getting better and, when it's playoff time, try to help my team win games. That's it."
Gobert has helped put the Jazz in position to do that this season. Entering Wednesday, he was fifth in the league in rebound (12.5 per game), first in blocks (2.5) and second in field goal percentage (65.8) while anchoring the NBA's third-ranked defense.
That all adds up to an all-star worthy résumé in the eyes of his teammates.
"I wish he would have been able to make it," Hayward said. "I'm sure he's going to have the opportunity in the future, but it would have been great to have him there. I think he deserved it."
Jazz at Pelicans
At Smoothie King Center
Tipoff • 6 p.m. MT Wednesday
TV • Root
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
About the Jazz • Gordon Hayward has matched a career best with his seven games with at least 30 points this season. … Are 13-9 on the road after Monday's win in Atlanta. … Currently third in the league in net rating, behind only Golden State and San Antonio.
About the Pelicans • Anthony Davis is a star, but his team (20-32) hasn't offered much help. … Split the season series with Utah at two games apiece last season. … Shooting guard Buddy Hield is fifth among NBA rookies in scoring, averaging 8.5 points per game.