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There’s been quite a bit of debate online in recent days over the prospect of Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert defending Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
B/R’s Taylor Rooks spoke to them both directly on Tuesday, and a respectful exchange ensued between the two big men.
“Yeah, I think I could lock him up,” Gobert told Rooks. “I’ll never look at anybody, anybody, and say, ‘Yeah, you’d give me 40 points. It’s not my mentality. I would love to face the first Shaq, it would be a big challenge for me. “
For his part, O’Neal admired Gobert’s state of mind and replied, “You know what Rudy, let me tell you something: I respect that. I do.”
O’Neal further explained that he knows his comments about current players are sometimes seen as hate, but his real intention is to motivate.
“So a lot of times when I throw jabs, people think it’s hate, or whatever,” he said. “But it’s really, I just challenge it, because what we have right now is so good, if it continues to be great, everyone is going to thrive. That’s how you have to see it. “
O’Neal also spoke about Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell, saying he has the potential to be great and shouldn’t just be “really good”. But he made it clear why his criticism carried more weight than most media pundits.
“It’s never beef. When I speak, I think I speak from experience, and I have the G-19 classification to say what I say,” O’Neal said. “I’m not one of those other commentators who didn’t do anything. You know who I am. You know what I did.”
The Jazz finished fifth in the West this season with a 49-33 record to make their sixth straight trip to the playoffs. But Utah has rebounded in the first round in six games against the Dallas Mavericks despite star point guard Luka Doncic missing the first three games of the series.
After being eliminated, many wonder if the Jazz will look to move on from Gobert or Mitchell this offseason.