December 03, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz are entering life without their defensive anchor for the foreseeable future.

A solid timeline hasn't been given for the return of Rudy Gobert, but coach Quin Snyder said he could be out ''the next couple months'' after suffering a MCL sprain in his left knee on Wednesday.

''Adversity is opportunity in disguise,'' Snyder said Thursday. ''Hopefully we'll un-disguise it. It's unfortunate, obviously, mostly for Rudy. I felt like our team had really started to play well.''

Snyder said a player fell into Gobert's knee under the basket after someone else drove to the hoop during practice. He called it ''one of those freak things.''

The 7-foot-1, 245-pound Gobert has been the centerpiece of the No. 3 defense in the NBA. Gobert is tied with Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan for No. 3 in the league with 2.6 blocks per game. He also averages 9.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

Gobert was considered one of the most improved players in the league last year. The Jazz believe he can grow into a franchise-type player.

The Jazz have lineup options, though Gobert has a unique body type and skill set that is difficult to replace.

Snyder wouldn't pinpoint a starting lineup, but it's most likely that Derrick Favors moves back to center from power forward and Trevor Booker moves into the starting lineup.

Snyder said they have the option to go small or big with 7-0 center Jeff Withey and Favors still at power forward. He'll likely use a variety of combinations until Gobert returns, which could also include Gordon Hayward seeing more time at power forward.

Rookie Tibor Pleiss was sent to the D-League Idaho Stampede on Monday, but Snyder doesn't expect an immediate return of the 7-3 rookie center.

There won't be an overhaul of the defensive system, Snyder said, though Gobert allowed defenders to be more aggressive on the perimeter with an elite shot blocker in the paint.

''Our system is our system,'' Snyder said. ''There will be some nuances we adjust.''

Favors is averaging a career-high 16.7 points per game with the addition of a feathery jump shot from the high-post and top of the key. Snyder doesn't expect him to be forced inside exclusively because of the position change.

Favors, though, said he will have to be careful with foul trouble.

''Basketball is a game of adjustments, I just have to go back to center,'' Favors said. ''Centers aren't quick as power forwards are, so they're going to have a harder time getting back to me. I'll be able to do the same thing. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to do the same stuff. Guys just have to be ready to step up.''

The Jazz turned into one of the best defensive teams in the league last year with some unique pieces.

Point guard Dante Exum had allowed the team to do more defensively because of his 6-6 frame and mobility that could fluster opposing point guards. He could also defend wings.

Gobert, whose 7-9 wingspan and 9-7 standing reach are NBA draft combine records, can also move well in pick-and-roll scenarios.

Those two are abnormal body types that put the Jazz in position to be a defensive stalwart. Now both are gone - Exum is out for the season with a torn ACL.

''It's just being smart ... knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be,'' Hayward said. ''We have a good system. I think that's going to benefit us. We're going to have to make sure we're even more hungry and our confidence has to go up both offensively and defensively. Kind of have to come out with some swagger a little bit.''

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