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With No Viable Backup, Gortat Has A Big Role To Fill

Playing center doesn’t have the same impact it used to. Rarely will you see a Kareem sky-hook, or a Hakeem Dream Shake. A back to the basket, rough and tough, rebounding machine type center has become uncommon.

But the Wizards’ Marcin Gortat has some of those qualities and is proving that it can still be effective. For the past three seasons, Gortat stayed consistent during playoff runs, and in spite of injuries to key players and other relatively tough situations. The Polish Hammer has been a rock for this team and with the 2016-2017 season just underway, Gortat looks to continue to have a steady impact on the team.

Signing Ian Mahinmi this past summer was a power move for the Wizards (pun intended), giving this reconstructed Wizards team a constant presence in the paint. But per usual, nothing can go well for #DCSports, as Mahinmi is out 4-6 weeks nursing an injured knee. Thankfully the Wizards have two other options in the strong jump shooter Jason Smith, and the rookie Daniel Ochefu. Despite the supporting cast, Mahinmi’s injury still creates a bigger role for the veteran big man Gortat. Putting up numbers does not usually come with a challenge, and efficiency is the only way to describe his offensive production. Little jump hooks, and easy layups are the name of his game. In limited preseason action, Gortat scored 8 points per game and shot the ball at a 70 percent clip. It’s fair to say that is a sample size of exactly what the Wizards need out of him.

Last night in the Wizards season opener, we didn’t see much of Gortat’s impact in his 32 minutes of burn. He did put up a respectable number of rebounds with 11 but his counterpart Dwight Howard took the W in that category with 19 boards of his own, nine of which came in the first quarter. Gortat’s lackluster shooting led to only four points, and ZERO (0) attempts from the foul line. Meanwhile, one of the worst shooters from the line in Howard earned four trip (making three). It is imperative for a big man to get to the line at least three times a game. A seven minute jump in playing time from what he is used to could have been the cause of Gortat’s reduced production. In the end, it should not effect him as much as it did.

The mentality and security Gortat brings with him when he steps on the court is what sets him apart. Not being someone to call for the ball, Gortat will bring tough play and rebounding each and every possession. If a shot doesn’t fall you can guarantee Gortat is fighting his ass off for that ball, and more times than not it is a guaranteed two points. His ability to play in both the high and low post allows the Wizards to slash to the hoop for easy slams. Gortat’s ability to set screens cannot be overlooked. Standing at 6’11” tall and 240 pounds he is an impenetrable wall. Allowing for our shifty point guard to make big time plays, which he does not receive enough appreciation for.

Defensively you cannot go wrong having The Polish Hammer on the floor. You are guaranteed at least 7 defensive rebounds and a block day in and day out. Gortat’s ability to play help defense provides players like John Wall with the opportunity to be super aggressive. An extensive basketball IQ from Gortat provides all of the little things not seen anymore. Toughness, communication, and endless effort. Until the return oh Mahinmi, Gortat and his IQ will be crucial to the success of the Wizards.

One way or another Gortat needs to produce with numbers or his mentality. Before the game against Atlanta, Gortat set the goal of getting into Howard’s head and taking him out of his game. But unfortunately it seemed like just the opposite. Howard dominated the boards, messing with Gortat’s game plan and setting him off track. With Mahinmi out, it is critical for Gortat to take charge in the paint. Increasing minutes is challenging and that’s understandable. That should not effect his mindset and the way he goes about playing the game. The big man has gained trust from all of Washington’s fans. A quirk in the norm is his chance to step up and set himself apart.

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