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Jace Frederick: Rudy Gobert needs to lead by a better example

After being ejected in a loss to the Thunder last Saturday, the center acknowledged his bad example

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards
Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, left, celebrates with teammate D'Angelo Russell against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 28, 2022.
Geoff Burke / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL -- Rudy Gobert on Monday acknowledged his first quarter actions from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ home loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday. The big man’s frustrations boiled over after some choice words from Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, at which point Gobert — who was lying on the ground — purposefully lifted his leg to trip Williams.

“Some days, like when you’re playing the game with so much adrenaline and physicality, sometimes you have reactions that maybe you wish you could take back,” Gobert said.

The reaction led to Gobert’s ejection, which left Minnesota without its star center for the remainder of the contest, one in which the Wolves were petulant in their conversations with officials and careless with the basketball.

“It was not the most mature effort by us,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “We needed a way more mature effort than that.”

Indeed. It was a game that ended with numerous technical fouls, including an ejection of D’Angelo Russell, who was fined $20,000 Monday by the NBA for inappropriate language directed toward an official.

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“Our veteran guys, they know better,” Wolves center Naz Reid said. “They know they made mistakes, and they know that might’ve cost us moments in the game.”

Jace mug (1).jpg
Jace Frederick

It started with Minnesota’s all-star big man.

“One thing I know for sure is I would never try to get anybody hurt,” Gobert said. “I’ve never done that in my career and I’m never going to be that type of person. (I have) always got to be the bigger person, and especially as a leader of this team. As the older guy on the team, too.”

“It was just frustration,” he added. “I think guys are going to talk. It’s a part of the game. Sometimes you can feel it’s disrespectful, but I’ve got to be smarter than that — penalizing my team, penalizing myself. So, just seems like for me, I got to be smarter.”

Gobert needs to lead, particularly now that Minnesota is without one of its best players in Karl-Anthony Towns.

Everything about winning, Finch noted, requires leadership. That’s something the Wolves have been lacking this season.

“We’re trying to find a voice collectively, trying to find a personality as a team,” Finch said. “Those are things that we’ve got to keep working on, trying to cultivate as a team. That’s my job.”

Sure, the head coach is responsible for leadership. But so, too, are the players — especially the veterans. Gobert was brought in to help fix the team’s defensive and rebounding woes, but also to set the proper tone.

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Minnesota hoped that in dealing away Patrick Beverley, the team’s primary leader last season, the team would potentially get off the emotional roller coaster it seemed to ride from game to game last season. So, it had to be disappointing for the team when it was Gobert — the 30-year-old, three-time all-star with a wealth of NBA and international experience — making the immature play to set the team off in the wrong direction.

The center has said he wants to be a leader of this team, but that has to come from positive actions.

“I think for me, it’s just to try to bring some of the experiences that I’ve already been through in my career and just bring who I am,” Gobert said. “My competitiveness, my will to win, my work ethic and then just keep trying to have guys around me grow and enjoy it.

“I think it’s all about trying to be myself. Just be myself and put in the work. Show these guys that in this league you only get what you work for and, yeah, try to bring positivity every day and understand there’s always going to be some ups and downs. But in this league and in general, it’s about consistency. Keep putting in the work when things don’t go well, and keep being a professional.”

Gobert must try to set a better example for the latter.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
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