Gobert Not Afraid To Challenge Zion Williamson At The Rim

Jul 29, 2020, 12:53 PM | Updated: Jul 30, 2020, 12:42 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is already one of the most fearsome dunkers in NBA history. Though he’s played just 19 games in his career, the former number one overall pick has a combination of size, leaping ability, and power that has been reserved for only a handful of elite dunkers in league history. Despite Williamson’s aggressive attacks, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert said he’s not afraid to challenge the rookie when the two inevitably meet at the rim.

In an interview with radio host Dan Patrick, Gobert said putting himself at risk of getting dunked on is par for the course as one of the league’s elite defenders.

“If I am in the right position,” Gobert said. “I’m always going to try to go in and make a play.”

Gobert is the two-time reigning defensive play of the year and is one of the favorites to earn the title again this season. The Jazz center would join former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard as only the second player to win the award in three consecutive seasons.

The two players met during the NBA preseason in October, though Williamson never truly challenged Gobert on a dunk attempt. Rehabbing from a torn meniscus, Williamson missed each of the Pelicans and Jazz three meetings during the regular season.

Gobert Not Worried About Getting Dunked On

Though Gobert infects more damage in the paint than he incurs, he recognizes the inevitability of ending up on the wrong end of a poster. As one of the league’s most imposing rim defenders, Gobert understands that getting dunked on is part of the game.

“A few you guys have dunked on me before,” Gobert said. “And guys are going to dunk on me again. It’s part of the life of a Defensive Player of the Year.”

While Gobert is ready his matchup with Williamson, there remains a chance the two won’t get their opportunity when the teams face off on Thursday. Though the rookie forward cleared quarantine Tuesday after leaving the Orlando campus in mid-July, the Pelicans may opt to hold Williamson out of the season reopener.

Williamson will have had only two practices, and one shootaround to prepare for the game if the Pelicans medical staff clears him before Thursday’s game. The rookie didn’t participate in any contract drills Tuesday night.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs but we’re not going to do anything ridiculous,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of rushing Williamson back. “We’re not going to make crazy decisions.”

Regardless of Williamson’s availability, Gobert said he’s got one mindset when it comes to defending the paint.

“I’m going to keep trying to do what’s best for my team defensively,” Gobert said. “At the same time, it’s a game, it’s fun. It’s fun to accept the challenge. And sometimes you win sometimes you lose.”

The Jazz and Pelicans tip-off at 4:30 pm MT. The game will be broadcast on TNT and AT&T SportsNet.

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