For anyone whose been following the ‘Zards closely all season long knows that the tail end of this journey into the playoffs has been all but a joyride. Gut-churning losses and unsatisfying wins. The complete absence of offense and the tension of a locker room jarred by the collective despair of 15 agonized basketball players. Think about how revolting film room sessions have become these days. To be losers of six out of your last seven games, watching game tape has to be feeling like a psychotic series of Eli Roth flicks.
To follow up the horror marathon, the Wizards took on the Philadelphia 76ers last night and came out of it with a partially (?) convincing win over the Sixers despite the romantic drama that arose from within the locker room afterwards. The juicies on that story are forthcoming.
But first, let me remind you how Marcin Gortat’s visible mood is usually as good or bad as his play on the court and even better or worse depending on the outcome of the game. Therefore, it’s obvious that his dismay during post-game interviews in these past few weeks while the team has been awful has been distorting audio waves and fogging up camera lenses. And when you start to resort to answers like “no comment”, or even worse, “I just don’t want to get fined”, you’re not always just in the heat of the moment, you’re probably actually enduring an issue that’s prolonged and plaguing. Moreover, when a 10 for 11 from the field-14 rebound-3 assist-2 block-23 point game still can’t simmer down your snappish demeanor, then yes, there’s definitely a soap opera storyline producing the bad vibes.
Marcin’s elusive outbreak of a game against Philly was inquired about with Randy Wittman and players alike, including Gortat himself.
Said Randy Wittman (per Kyle Weidie):
“Well, rolling to the basket instead of floating a little bit, that was really good. He’s got great hands, he can get to the basket, that was as good as he’s had, from a standpoint of rolling.”
John Wall followed up his coach’s remarks with very similar ones:
“That’s when I think he’s at his best, not posting up so much but setting good screens and rolling, getting the ball and finishing.”
Marcin, however, had an entirely different take and a defensive one:
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 2, 2015
So, here’s what we’re dealing with. We’ve bitched time and again about the Wizards’ negligence to utilize Wall and Gortat in the pick and roll. We bitch about this because we’ve seen it executed with perfection and often times counterattacked unsuccessfully. We bitch about this because we know that this team, as awful as it can become in half-court sets, could run the pick and roll play with Wall and Gortat to the absolute death of defenses and in doing so, manage at least a 50% success rate, as John C. Townsend’s piece conveniently reveals. Last night, after Wall and Gortat dismantled the Sixers defense into pieces by actually running the pick and roll play to the absolute death, Wittman and Wall responded by iterating the importance for Gortat to roll more often. In between, Gortat retorted against both of their takes by saying he’s always rolling. And now this sounds like the opening introduction of a Judge Judy episode.
This melodrama can only be figured out using numbers and eye tests. Numbers, as shown in Townsend’s piece, prove that Gortat doesn’t in fact get enough roll possessions. At least not in contrast to other prominent roll men in the league. Eye tests, as humanly conducted, prove that we have actually seen a lot of Gortat ‘floating’ and settling for midrange shots instead of gliding his way towards the rim.
So, wherein lies the problem? Gortat claims that he played well last night because his teammates were ‘getting him the ball’, perhaps a semi-knock on his teammates by implying that he ‘always rolls to the rim’ but is just neglected from being fed. Gortat’s qualm against whomever should be concerned for not getting the ball in general is also driven from the fact he doesn’t earn enough post-up plays. *I can smell the burning leather on a hot seat again* because a ton of this can be finger-pointed at the play caller, and I’m not talking about the one who brings the ball up court. It’s also fair to disagree with Gortat when he says he’s always rolling to the rim because, quite honestly, he’s not, and for two reasons: 1) the offense, by numbers and eye tests, doesn’t execute it enough, and 2) again, Gortat has developed somewhat of a knack for settling in midrange space for a pop, which has a propensity to miss. Moreover, Gortat’s lack of touches in the post is also frustrating him.
Now, has Gortat been a gem every time he touches the ball? Surely not. Has he proven to have stone hands when trying to receive a pass or at times be soft on the glass and at the rim? Unquestionably. Do the Wizards go away from game plans and strategies when things unravel, or for no reason at all? Uh huh.
Ultimately, Marcin Gortat’s contract extension was offered and signed for reasons worth approximately 60 million dollars and the priority to resign him was worth an entire stack of Ernie’s Post-It notes. He was considered the prize ticket in free agency as far as big men ranked and the importance of retaining and securing him through (and perhaps past) his prime was substantial. The apparent underutilization of his skill set is a criminal detriment to the offense and, to be frank as &%$#, his perceptible anguish is the last thing he, or the Wizards need on their plate with just a half dozen or so games left before the playoffs. Alas, the Wizards have built themselves a reputation all year long for underutilizing their assets and this pick and roll saga is just the latest subplot. The ‘Zards have a ton to cram in before Game 1 of the first round, and so the necessity for them to get their shit together is critical and it should start with Marcin Gortat.