Rudy Gobert was initially supposed to miss between four and six weeks with a bone bruise in his right knee. So, naturally, he returned to the Utah Jazz in less than four.
Gobert made his season debut on Monday night, helping the Jazz pull off a 116-69 drubbing of the Washington Wizards. He even logged 27 minutes in their loss to Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. Steven Adams absolutely owned him, but still, it was the second night of a back-to-back, and he wasn’t yet two games into his return.
How, you ask, was Gobert able to beat the Jazz’s projected timeline?
He’s not human. Duh.
Per KSL.com’s Andy Larsen:
Rudy Gobert on how he can heal so quickly: "I'm not human."
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 5, 2017
Sounds like a fair assessment, no? Inaccurate, of course. But fair.
Gobert’s early return feels more indicative of the Jazz’s initial cautiousness than anything. They were under .500 at the time of his injury and fading out of the Western Conference’s playoff picture. They probably didn’t want to put any pressure on him to return in swift fashion where there was a chance he wouldn’t be rejoining a squad that was competing for anything.
Alas, the Jazz had other plans. In the 11 games he missed, they went 7-4 while posting a second-ranked offensive rating and outscoring opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com—good enough for the league’s fourth-best net differential during that time, behind only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
Even after blowing a 17-point lead versus Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the Jazz have the look and feel of a playoff lock. Injuries to the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies have paved the way for them to create some distance, and while they haven’t really faced any elite offensive units over the past couple weeks, they have the depth and lineup versatility to shapeshift their identity at both ends as needed. So go ahead and pencil them in for the postseason. It may only be as a seven or eight seed, but they’re going to get there.