For Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat, the firing of Randy Wittman was a positive. The Polish Machine was not in a good state at the end of last season, so much that he didn’t even conduct an exit interview because he wanted to protect his image.
“Man you don’t want to know,” Gortat said about his mental state during the last two to three months of last season. “It was bad, let me tell you that. It was bad.”
Gortat said he had to protect himself towards the tail end of last year rather than “saying something stupid and you [reporter] got to write it because it’s your job and I got to take responsibility for it. So I’d rather sneak out and say ‘No English, I don’t speak English.’ I’m a 10-year veteran, I know when I have to protect myself.”
Gortat clashed with Wittman over playing time and did not understand how others on the team were playing over him late in games.
“There is no way Kris Humphries is going to finish the game over me,” Gortat said in a dig at his previous coach. “I love Kris to death but he’s an undersized big man, he doesn’t have the same abilities that I have. And it was a situation where he was playing in front of me so I can’t accept that.”
The near seven-footer is happy for a fresh start with new head coach Scott Brooks but did not use his five months off from basketball to learn about his new boss.
“No, I didn’t study, I didn’t study,” Gortat said when asked if he researched Brooks. “I didn’t study on my five months off Coach Brooks, trust me. I ain’t going to bullsh*t you here. I was studying different things in the summer. The beach and the pool.”
Gortat’s trouble were not completely behind him as rumors swirled when the Wizards gave former Pacers big Ian Mahinmi a $64 million contract. Contrary what others might believe, the longest tenured Washington big was not worried with what outsiders think and is ready to get to work.
“Kids were popping questions to me like ‘Are you going to get traded? Are you going to be a backup now? Are you leaving the team?’ and I’m like what are all of you talking about,” Gortat said about learning of Mahinmi signing while hosting basketball camp in Poland. “I was completely fine … one of the Wizards member called me and said I don’t have to worry about anything. And I’m like ‘I’m not even worried about anything’, it didn’t even come to the point where I was worrying about anything. I know him, he’s a good player, he’s a big dude but at the end of the day I played against Dwight Howard in his prime and he ain’t even close to Dwight Howard right now so I’m fine … I’m not going to cry now. It’s a business, it is what it is.”
Gortat also understands similar to last year with Nene, he will usually not be on the court with Mahinmi at the same time.
“I wish to play together with him,” Gortat said about Mahinmi, “but unfortunately at the same time, I’m 99 percent sure that only one of us is going to play at the same time. We definitely going to fight for that spot on the team. He proved himself in this league, he got paid big money now, he’s secure and I know there’s not too many centers in this league that brings to the table what I bring and what he brings so we in a good position.”
Head coach Scott Brooks would not share any thoughts on a preliminary big man rotation that also includes Markieff Morris. Mahinmi also seems to be in the dark but things should be sorted out during training camp and preseason. The French national seems willing to sacrifice his own playing time for the benefit of the team however.
“That’s the million-dollar question right here,” Mahinmi said when asked how his role will work with Marcin Gortat. “This is not the thing I am really focused on. I am more focused on how I can help the team win games. I feel like every other guy in this locker room has the same mindset.”
On an unrelated note, Gortat is looking forward to taking Tomas Satoransky under his wing the same way Hedo Turkoglu did with him.
“I’m excited to have another white guy on the team, another Eastern European guy on the team,” Gortat said about Tomas Satoransky.
With the loss of Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce, and Jared Dudley over the past three years, the Wizards seemingly lack leadership. Gortat does not think so though.
Marcin Gortat on team leadership:
“We have a lot of young guys that are listening,” Gortat said on the ease of leading. “Make sure these guys are on time everywhere, make sure these guys are prepared for the game, make sure these guys are ready for the meeting, these guys are on time for practice, these guys are working every day on their game. Me, John, Bradley we are making sure these guys are early here, working here, listening, not complaining.”
Gortat is clearly in a better place than he was six months ago and that may just result in a higher level of play to complements the Wizards dynamic, according to Brooks, backcourt.