Will Gobert’s Team France hurt Timberwolves chances this season?

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Minnesota Timberwolves suited up to compete in the 2022-23 NBA season, Timberwolves fans were already at a fever pitch. This was a team that traded five players and four first-round draft picks to acquire All-Star center Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz, and the anticipation about seeing him line up next to long-time veteran TImberwolves center-turned-power forward Karl-Anthony Towns was electrifying.

The Timberwolves executed a plan to attempt something that the NBA had not seen for many years. In theory, the Timberwolves attempted to construct a High Wall defense around Gobert and Towns, which would allow the team to complement the rest of the roster with wing defenders and three-point marksmen.

The problem was that Rudy Gobert got banged up while competing for Team France a year ago, and Karl-Anthony Towns was stricken with an illness. That combination derailed any hope of the Minnesota Timberwolves assembling their new roster and rotations, as the theoretical High Wall never materialized before the start of the 2022-23 NBA season, leaving the Timberwolves high and dry.

Team France wins again

The hope of fans having witnessed the grueling frustration of that experience was that Gobert might forego his International competition this offseason, and focus on developing the desperately needed chemistry with his teammates on the Timberwolves roster. Well, you can flush that idea, because center Rudy Gobert is going to compete for Team France once more.

While I get the desire for Gobert to compete for Team France, I would certainly want the Timberwolves to amend their contract with Gobert to carve out injuries that occur during his international competition and reduce the amount of compensation due to the guy for time lost to the Timberwolves as a result of that decision.

But there are others who are less amenable to Gobert risking injury once more:

I get it. Rudy Gobert is one of France’s best basketball players of all time. When the Timberwolves traded for Gobert, they knew or should have known, the limits to the relationship.  But it’s a bold thing to put oneself at risk with the expectation that the Minnesota Timberwolves will happily pay millions without recourse or repercussions.

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I like Rudy Gobert on the Timberwolves roster, and I hope that he returns to All-Star form this year. But if Gobert is injured while playing for Team France, I can see how that will quickly drive a wedge between the team and the player. Right now, the Timberwolves face a tough decision over how to pare down their investment in front-court players for next season. If Gobert is injured again while competing for Team France, I’m afraid that will make the Timberwolves’ decision for them.