In advance of Team USA taking on France in FIBA play, Myles Turner had some words of challenge for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
The mere fact that the upcoming FIBA quarterfinal bout between Team USA and France will feature ultra-competitive Utah Jazz teammates Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert going up against one another is enough to know that it’s going to be a heck of a game.
Factor in as well that the United States has been criticized as weaker than usual all throughout the tournament and that France is coming off a disappointing and somewhat surprising loss to Australia, and this game could very well be a fierce contest between two chip-on-the-shoulder groups. Both are talented, deep and prideful squads that will want to represent their country well and do everything in their power to stave off elimination.
That backdrop alone would have been enough to spark a battle for the ages. But things may very well get more heated as Team USA starting center and Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner doused the flames of the matchup with gasoline with a statement that came in the press conference following USA’s win over Brazil.
When asked about the task of going up against Rudy Gobert, Turner spoke very resolutely saying, “Looking forward to it. He’s a good defensive player. I’m a good defensive player. So it’s going to be a good game. You know, he’s the Defensive Player of the Year…”
But then Turner added in the kicker to the end of that quote “…according to some.”
See it for yourself in the video below beginning at the 16-minute mark:
The “according to some” comment was no doubt in reference to Myles Turner feeling that he was snubbed in Defensive Player of the Year voting. And while, Team USA allegiances aside, Jazz fans aren’t going to side with Turner on the actual DPOY side of the argument, Turner absolutely has a point in being snubbed from being one of the DPOY finalists.
Turner finished fifth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, behind Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Joel Embiid. He received no first place votes and only two second place votes, putting his point total at 15. In comparison, Embiid had 26, PG had 150, Giannis had 280 and Rudy had 411.
All of those guys are excellent defenders, but Turner very likely deserved far more respect than he was granted. After all, he led the NBA in total blocks (199) and blocks per game last season (2.7). His rim protection for the Pacers was of comparable importance to Rudy’s for the Jazz. His defensive rating (104.5) and defensive win shares (4.4) were both solid figures.
Turner expressed his distress with the voting results by tweeting out an infamous video from the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals of Roy Hibbert claiming that the media didn’t bother to watch the Pacers, and expressing his shared sentiment. The language in the video is NSFW, so I’ve merely linked it here if you’d like to see for yourself.
However, Rudy posted even better marks in each of those latter two defensive statistics I just mentioned. And, let’s face it, Gobert wasn’t just the DPOY ‘according to some’, he was the DPOY by an overwhelming majority and absolutely deserved the nod. Nevertheless, it’s still certainly clear to see why Turner felt snubbed due to the poor results he received.
I agree with Turner to the degree that he merited far more votes and better placement than he ended up with. I believe he had a strong argument to be above the likes of Embiid, George and Antetokounmpo, and personally I would have picked him to finish second behind Gobert.
All that aside, his post-game comments are a sign of resilience and confidence, which he and Team USA will certainly need against a hungry and talented France team. They will easily be the most formidable squad the Americans have faced in FIBA play thus far and Turner, who has been critical as the United States’ best post presence, will have to shoulder a massive load in the bout to keep Gobert and the Frenchmen in check.
But if Gobert caught wind of Turner’s (not-so-) subtle challenge, it will likely only serve as further motivation for a guy that’s not at all lacking in that department. Seeking redemption for a loss to Australia and wanting to topple the ever-dominant Americans, expect Gobert to look to come out and make a statement to prove that his Defensive Player of the Year title wasn’t merely decided by a small group of people, but rather a title he earned in the heat of battle.
I, for one, was already looking forward to the matchup between Gobert and Turner as two rising bigs in the league that are exceptional on D. Now that Turner has made it clear how ready he is for the challenge, and merely assuming how feisty Rudy is going to be as a result of Myles’ comments, the center battle should be one for the ages.
I know the game tips off at an unimaginably inconvenient time of 5:00 AM MT on Wednesday, but based on Myles Turner’s challenge alone, this is a game that Utah Jazz fans won’t want to miss. Factor in Donovan Mitchell wanting to defeat his Jazz teammate, Gobert wanting to make a statement, and two titans of FIBA going head-to-head, and I’d recommend getting to bed early tonight to be prepared for the showdown ahead.