LAS VEGAS – Among the most frequently asked questions about the Wizards this offseason – after whether or not John Wall will sign an extension – is what will happen with Marcin Gortat in the middle.
Gortat raised eyebrows after the season ended in Game 7 vs. the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals by wondering out loud if he’s better off playing somewhere else after four seasons as the starter in Washington.
It doesn’t appear the 6-11 center who played in all 82 games in two of the last three seasons and was a double-double machine before the All-Star break is going anywhere, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.
First, this subject requires diagnosing where it all came from with Gortat, who’d just finished meeting with coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards’ front office for exit interviews and was pleased with what he heard.
The root of his angst has been his role in the offense. At times, the Wizards established him in the low post immediately, especially when matched against undersized opponents such as Al Horford of the Boston Celtics. The post touches, however, evaporated as the season progressed. The Wizards even went away from being pick-and-roll heavy and instead used Markieff Morris or Jason Smith when they were in at the four spot.
On the defensive end, Gortat has felt compromised. He’s often being asked by Wall to switch onto point guards in space and if he doesn’t succeed he believes he gets blamed for it.
Then there’s his backup, Ian Mahinmi, who earns about $4 million more per year and has more security entering the second year of a four-year deal. Mahinmi wasn’t in top shape entering training camp, was slowed by knee issues and missed 50 games.
But Gortat, who will be entering his 11th season, wants to see better leadership from the Wizards’ best player. The Wizards’ best player wants to see him play with more force, adapt and follow his lead. Going into his second full season with a better grip on his team's personality, Brooks will have to mediate.
Though on the surface it appears that there’s trouble brewing, that’s not the case. There’s no animosity. Everyone knows Gortat wears his emotions on his sleeve and can be prone to being candid to a fault.
Gortat, who has been known to get into social media spats with trolls and curt with reporters, realizes where his bread is buttered. If he were to go elsewhere, who could set him up as well as Wall?
If he wants a bigger role in the offense in a league that’s increasingly going to small ball and using centers to stretch the floor, where can go?
Wall is the four-time All-Star and now an All-NBA player. When stars have spats with role players, who usually wins?
Does all of this mean there’s no chance of a move being made with Gortat or Mahinmi? Of couse not, but despite not having much cap room to make significant offseason moves the Wizards will enter the season with top-four seed expectations.
Wall has acknowledged that his conditioning has to be better to be a more effective two-way player and appease Gortat's desire to see him improve as a leader.
Despite receiving a healthy dose of votes for All-Defense, Wall's on-ball performance was not up to par for most of 82 games. The ball kept getting inside the paint. While conditioning isn’t an issue for Gortat, he has to cover for his teammates and rotate accordingly and trust that they'll cover for him.
Gortat will make about $12.8 million and relative to the salaries being handed out in free agency the last two years, he's on a good contract with just two years left on it.
If the Wizards had one just one more postseason game, this topic would be a moot point. They failed for a lot of reasons. They didn't fail to make it because of Gortat, but they also won't get there until he comes to an understanding with Wall on how to get there. It's up to Brooks to get them both to see that, and that's supposed to be one of his strengths as a coach.
Better chemistry between the two coupled with Otto Porter taking his game to the next level after his $106 million max contract -- like Bradley Beal did last year when he signed his -- and on top of that a weaker East?
There's a chance to move up so moving on isn't the answer.