Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert confirmed late on Sunday night that he will be playing for Team France in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which kicks off on August 25 and will host games in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Appears Rudy Gobert WILL be playing in the 2023 FIBA World Cup this summer.— Leo S (@Y0Leo) June 26, 2023
Rudy's early season struggles were accredited to injuries/fatigue from EuroBasket last year. Just 2 months ago, he teased sitting out this summer to focus on being full health for the next NBA season... https://t.co/UPLu24w2Be pic.twitter.com/SFsIEPuQcd
The news came after No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama told French paper L’Equipe on Saturday he would not play in the competition.
This was a long decision process for Gobert, who publicly wrestled with the idea of not playing in this year’s World Cup in order to get healthy.
Rudy Gobert says he's undecided about playing for France in the World Cup. Says he wants to "come back like I want to have the best year of my career next season. I know that this summer I’m going to put myself in position that I’ve never put myself in before."— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 27, 2023
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was not healthy for the first half of the season, which was partly a result of suiting up for France last summer in EuroBasket, a notoriously physical competition full of burly bigs banging in the post and battling hard on the glass. Gobert was a limited participant in training camp and preseason games nursing a knee issue, which lingered throughout the season.
Gobert appeared to be in much better physical condition after the All-Star break, even though there wasn’t much of a material change in his statistics before and after the break. He was evidently moving much better, was more active defensively, and impacted the game more clearly after getting a week off to reset.
He unfortunately injured his back in a game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 8, the team’s 81st of 82 regular season games. That carried into the postseason, during which Gobert gutted it out and played at well below than 100% to give the Wolves a fighting chance inside. To his credit, he led the team in rebounding in four of the five games of the first-round series against the eventual champion Denver Nuggets.
Based on his exit interview with the media, it is fair to draw the conclusion that Gobert was not satisfied with his play in his first season as a Wolf and stated he wanted this coming season to be the best of his career. Fans truly believed that when he publicly cast doubt on whether or not he’d play for Team France this fall.
But Gobert is extremely prideful in representing his country as one of the best French players of all-time, which is both absolutely understandable and something to be respected. I know Wolves fans want him to care more about playing for Minnesota, but it is impossible for any of us to know what it is like to represent your country as a professional athlete on the world stage, and the FIBA World Cup only comes around every four years. Given that Gobert turns 31 today, he may wonder how many opportunities he will have to represent his country in major international competitions, which surely makes it more difficult to turn down these opportunities.
Beyond this fall, Gobert is a lock to suit up for France again next summer as Paris hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics and boasts a team that is expected to feature Wembanyama, Gobert and 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embiid.
The three-time All-Star will join Timberwolves teammates Anthony ‘Captain America’ Edwards (United States), Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic) and Kyle Anderson (China) as players reportedly suiting up for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.