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It is becoming less of a secret, the longer he plays and the closer he comes to helping the Utah Jazz Jerseys get back into the playoffs: Derrick Favors can be driven by his anger.
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“I know he is somebody who is very quiet,” says Rudy Gobert, the 7-foot-1 Utah center who partners with Favors, the 6-foot-10 power forward.
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“But when he gets angry, that’s when he is at his best.”
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A five-game losing streak ended two weeks ago when that anger flared up. Favors did not turn into the Hulk. He did not cause harm. But he did generate 28 points on 19 shots to go with six blocks, 11 rebounds and three assists as he outplayed All-Star Anthony Davis Jerseys in a crucial 106-94 win at New Orleans.
“We both have a lot of pride,” says Gobert, who contributed 18 rebounds and two blocks to that win. “I feel like we both got the chip on our shoulder. We both have something to prove and we’re showing it on the court.”
Favors Helps Jazz Stun Cavs
Rodney Hood scores 28 and Derrick Favors adds 19 points and 5 rebounds as the Jazz beat the Cavs 94-85.
After surviving a run of competitive losses that had gone the wrong way in the fourth quarter, the young Jazz have now won five of six (including a telltale victory at home last week against the Cavaliers) to raise the significance of its showdown at Houston tonight (8 ET, NBA League Pass). It is going to feel like a postseason play-in game, given that the Rockets are only a ½-game ahead of No. 9 Utah in the Western Conference.
Injuries have thinned the perimeter — a season-ending knee injury to point guard Dante Exum, a broken fibula shooting guard Alec Burks suffered in December that ended his 2015-16 and the ongoing plantar fasciitis plaguing top scorer and small forward Gordon Hayward — so Utah will be leaning on the defensive leadership of Favors and Gobert. In spite of the injuries to a roster that was already the youngest in the league in terms of experience, the Jazz have gone 21-17 when Favors and Gobert have started together.
We both have a lot of pride. I feel like we both got the chip on our shoulder. We both have something to prove and we’re showing it on the court.
– Utah Jazz Jerseys center Rudy Gobert, on he and Derrick Favors
Even more intriguing than the uphill pursuit of Utah’s first playoff appearance since 2012 is the longterm question that may be answered over the next three weeks: Can Favors and Gobert establish a foundation at both ends of the court that will carry Utah back into perennial contention?
“Peoples’ initial response is: Can they play together? And can they coexist offensively?” says Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I think they can. But they are unique, and they are not going to play off one another the way a typical power forward and center combination would.”
Duo a unique defensive tandem
For perspective, consider the frontcourt issue that the Los Angeles Clippers Jerseys are seeking to resolve. Can Blake Griffin (pending his return from injury and suspension) and DeAndre Jordan reach an NBA Finals together? The questions arise from the absence of a floor-spacer among them: Griffin isn’t a 3-point shooter, and Jordan is a threat mainly around the basket.
Gobert Finds Favors
Rudy Gobert throws it up to Derrick Favors who throws down the alley-oop dunk.
In Utah, Favors and Gobert have emerged as a poor man’s version of the Clippers’ front line. Favors is 1-for-14 in his career as a 3-point shooter, while all but five of Gobert’s field goals — he’s averaging a career-best 9.5 points and shooting 56.5 percent — have been scored within 5 feet.
“I think a lot of is just the two of them being disciplined in their spacing,” Snyder said. “There is less room because their range isn’t typical of a combination like that. Their passing has to make up for it, and I think both of them will develop. Both of them have to be realistic about their strengths and weaknesses and where they can improve, and embrace some of those things that they can get better at.”
I knew right away that he was a good defensive player. I was a defensive guy too when I came into the league — still am. It was right from the beginning where we were both blocking shots and playing team defense.
– Utah Jazz Jerseys forward Derrick Favors, on Rudy Gobert
Both are years away from fulfilling their upside. Despite back problems that sidelined him for 16 games in midseason, Favors, 24, has elevated his scoring average for a fifth straight year (16.9 points) while also averaging 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 51.3 percent. Gobert, 23, missed 18 games with a knee sprain, yet his 9.5 points and 11.0 rebounds are both career bests.
They appear willing to complement one another in recognition of each other’s strengths. Protection of the rim — and the gaudier shot-blocking numbers that go with it — have been ceded to Gobert (2.2 blocks per game). Meanwhile, Favors has shown the defensive versatility to defend away from the basket.
“Faves this year has been showing he can guard perimeter guys for a possession,” Hayward said. “That allows us to start switching 1 through 4 late, which is just huge for us.”
Snyder points out that most of Gobert’s blocks come off the ball, while Favors tends to block shots within his matchup. “On defense I let him do his thing,” says Favors of Gobert. “So I take a backseat to that, because I nba jerseys wholesale know he’s going to block shots, he’s going to get the rebounds, he’s going to do all of that stuff. And then on offense he knows I’m going to be the guy who will get most of the touches. So he plays off me.”
Gobert can be seen spacing away from Favors, but he commands respect when rolling or diving to the basket. At times it seems as if the lobs can’t be thrown high enough. “With his ability to jump, you throw it too low and he may drop it,” says point guard Trey Burke. “Then sometimes you may throw it too high because you feel like he can go get anything.”
No odd couple here
Gobert has little in common with his power forward in terms of background. Favors grew up in Atlanta as a can’t-miss prospect who was rated by some as the No. 1 high school player nationally in 2009. After averaging 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a freshman at Georgia Tech, he went No. 3 overall to the Nets in the 2010 Draft. Four months into his rookie season, Favors was moved to Utah as the main piece in the stunning trade of then-All-Star Deron Williams.
Favors Shines vs. Pelicans
Derrick Favors scores 28 points and grabs 11 rebounds as the Jazz defeat the Pelicans 106-94.
It was as if he had been moved back in time. His new mentors included Al Jefferson, owner of the NBA’s most retro post game, and Favors would invest hundreds of hours in his footwork. “When I first came into the league I was the athletic guy — running, jumping, blocking shots,” says Favors. “And when I got to Utah it was like, `We play the system. So you’re going to have to rotate over, you’re going to have to work on your post game, you’re going to have to play team defense. You’re not going to get a lot of shots because we want you to rotate over early.’ So that was something I had to learn. And I’ve kept with it.
“I knew that it was going to pay off in the long run. That’s why I stuck with it, and I’m glad because obviously it’s paying off now. I know when I get older, my athleticism is going to leave me. So every day I try to work on my post game. I try to work on different finishes around the rim where I’m not dunking the ball, and I continue to work on my footwork around the paint.”
Favors had finished his third season (9.4 ppg) when Gobert arrived as No. 27 pick in the 2013 Draft via a trade with Denver. Expectations were low: Gobert had been overlooked as a teenager in France until a late growth spurt turned him into a rim-protector. Even then, he was limited to 434 minutes as a rookie while spending time in the NBA D-League before he declared his readiness at the 2014 World Cup. In France’s quarterfinal upset of host Spain, Gobert outrebounded Pau and Marc Gasol 13-12 while effectively protecting his rim.
Defense Leads to Offense
Rudy Gobert rejects Ricky Rubio’s layup attempt which leads to the fastbreak dunk by Derrick Favors.
“When he came in as a rookie, a lot of people didn’t know,” says Favors of Gobert. “I knew right away that he was a good defensive player. I was a defensive guy too when I came into the league — still am. It was right from the beginning where we were both blocking shots and playing team defense.”
“Not many teams have two guys that are long and have the timing and natural defense instincts,” Hayward said. “There are a lot of big men who don’t know how to protect the rim like they do. And then the other stuff you don’t see is their competitiveness, their fire — just wanting to be great.”
I know when I get older, my athleticism is going to leave me. So every day I try to work on my post game. I try to work on different finishes around the rim where I’m not dunking the ball, and I continue to work on my footwork around the paint.
– Favors, on his post game
The fire is obvious in Gobert, who is as explosive emotionally as he is athletically. “Sometimes I overreact to things,” Gobert says. “I have been smarter about this. Sometimes it is better to not say anything. But sometimes it is tough.”
Favors rejects suggestions that he and Gobert are Utah’s odd couple, based on perceptions — which he rejects like a ball around the rim — that he is introverted. “I’m not really quiet,” Favors says. “I’m just more laid-back and he is more outspoken, you can say.”
Gobert Swats Parker
Jabari Parker slashes into the lane for the shot attempt and Rudy Gobert swats it out of bounds.
His experiences have taught Favors to channel his anger. “My first couple of years in the league, after we lost or I had a bad game, I was kind emotional inside,” he says. “Now if I’m having a bad game, I try to find some energy from somewhere, some motivation, and use that to my advantage whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end. You just don’t see it, but I keep it inside. And I use it to my advantage.”
Plenty of mountains for Jazz duo to climb
Snyder has noticed it. He is fully aware of the potential of both Favors and Gobert, especially since the Jazz have moved on from other talented big men — Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter — in order to create room for them to grow.
“Derrick has the ability to defend on the perimeter, instead of just being an interior defender,” Snyder said. “That may have surprised some people last year, his ability to go out and guard some guys and stay in front of smaller people.
Gobert Denies ‘Melo
Rudy Gobert goes up strong and denies Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt.
“And then just from the skill standpoint they both have potential. I think Rudy is going to be a solid free-throw shooter. For Derrick it’s about getting a more refined post game, of learning how to play down there efficiently, and then also stepping out to extend his range as well. Something as simple as going from 15 feet to 18 feet — those are gains that don’t come overnight.”
Neither Favors nor Gobert is going to want to hear about the long term, not when the playoffs are within reach for next month. For the Jazz, however, the ultimate payoff is going to come when each is in his mid-to-late 20s.
Gobert’s Five Dunks vs. Nets
Rudy Gobert tallied five dunks on Friday against the Nets.
“The main thing for the two of them is going to be just how committed they are to working on their games,” says Snyder. “Both of them are really good NBA players right now. But if they want to be great, and if they want to be great together, they’ve got to work on things that complement one another. It’s almost a collective of the two of them playing off each other.”
Will Gobert control his temper — and will Favors lose his? It’s hard enough to predict how young players will react to the pressures of a playoff race.
Can they help each other offensively in order to make it possible for them dominate defensively? The Jazz are looking forward to that day when their frontcourt opposites are defined not so much by their personality differences, but rather by their working partnership.
Ian Thomsen has covered the NBA since 2000. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.
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