Sunday's NBA: Rudy Gobert signs $205 million, five-year extension with Jazz

Tim Reynolds
Associated Press

Rudy Gobert arrived in Utah seven years ago as a relative unknown, without a lot of fanfare and with some serious questions about his potential.

Those days are long forgotten.

Gobert has signed a contract extension with the Jazz, the team said Sunday without divulging terms. A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press that the deal is worth $205 million over five years, though Gobert holds an option to end the deal one year early.

Rudy Gobert (27) is a three-time All-Defensive team player.

“Rudy’s competitiveness and will to win have been instrumental in watching how he has grown and evolved into an elite player in our league,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He is dedicated to his teammates and to winning here in Utah.”

The move, first reported by ESPN, was announced two days after Ryan Smith was confirmed by the NBA’s board of governors to become the owner of the Jazz, and is the capper to an offseason where Utah committed perhaps as much as $400 million to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell over the five seasons that span from 2021-22 through 2025-26.

The Jazz signed Mitchell to an extension last month that could reach $195 million over those five years.

“I’m here to stay, and I’m here to WIN a championship,” Gobert wrote in a letter — he addressed it “Dear Utah” — posted to Twitter on Sunday. “I’m here to win with my brothers, I’m here to win with Coach Q and I’m here to win with you, Utah. Let’s get it. Merci.”

Gobert is a three-time All-Defensive team player, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and made the All-Star team last season for the first time. The 7-foot-1 native of France — with a 7-foot-9 wingspan — has blocked 989 shots in the last six seasons, more than anyone else in the NBA during that stretch.

He averaged 15.1 points and a career-best 13.5 rebounds last season and led the NBA in dunks.

“The impact he’s had on our team, the state of Utah and so many other communities around the world is immeasurable,” Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said.

Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, getting that result back on March 11 — the test that prompted the NBA to suspend its season that very night and stop games for 4½ months. Two days before that test result, before leaving a media session at a pregame shootaround, Gobert touched all the reporters’ tape recorders that were placed before him on a table in an attempt to be funny — and, after it was learned that Mitchell also tested positive, exposed Gobert to criticism that he was not taking the virus seriously.

Gobert donated more than $500,000 to funds established to help those who work part-time at Jazz games and families affected by the pandemic. He also taped a public-service announcement for the league and, in time, apparently healed his relationship with Mitchell as well.

“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said this past summer. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”

Kuzma staying extension

Forward Kyle Kuzma (Flint) has agreed to a three-year, $40 million extension to remain with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, a person familiar with the deal said.

The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the Lakers didn’t disclose the terms of the deal in their announcement of an extension. ESPN first reported the terms of Kuzma’s rookie contract extension, which begins in 2021 and includes a player option for the 2023-24 season.

Kuzma has been a key component of the Lakers’ core for three seasons since the team acquired him in a draft-day trade in 2017.

“It is especially gratifying for our Lakers franchise to draft, develop and now sign one of our own to a contract extension,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Kyle has shown tremendous growth over the last three years, and played a crucial role on last season’s championship team.”

Kuzma made the All-NBA rookie first team in 2018, and the smooth scorer averaged a career-best 18.7 points in his second pro season after the arrival of LeBron James.

When Anthony Davis and several veteran additions transformed the Lakers into title contenders last season, Kuzma transitioned into a supporting role as a reserve scorer and a wing defender. His scoring average and shooting percentage declined, but he worked on improving his defense and playmaking.

Despite his decline in numbers, Kuzma is a valuable component for the defending champs because of his versatility and capability of providing quick offense. James and Davis have mentored Kuzma on defense as well, and Kuzma is expected to compete for a starting job and more minutes this season.

The Lakers begin defense of their 16th NBA championship on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The champs will be pressed hard against the salary cap for the foreseeable future, so their ability to re-sign their own players is crucial. Kuzma also has significant value as a potential trade component at this salary if the Lakers and Kuzma decide to break up in the future.

The Lakers locked down a significant portion of their core during the short offseason after their triumph in the Florida bubble. Davis and James agreed to lucrative deals that will keep them together for three more seasons, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got a three-year deal worth more than $39 million.