J. Michael

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Expect Marcin Gortat to be in Wizards uniform when 2017-18 season starts

Expect Marcin Gortat to be in Wizards uniform when 2017-18 season starts

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.

[RELATED: Wizards slot Meeks' contract differently to avoid hard cap]

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.

[RELATED: John Wall hasn't made up mind about extension]

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?

The stars.

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.

[RELATED: Kings didn't extend max offer sheet to Otto Porter]

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.

[RELATED: Who is the best player in Wizards/Bullets history?]

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What we know about who has performed best for Wizards at Las Vegas summer league

What we know about who has performed best for Wizards at Las Vegas summer league

LAS VEGAS – Through three games, the Wizards are winless at Las Vegas summer league, which shouldn’t come as a major surprise. It’s about the bigger picture anyway and not Tuesday's 82-73 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Of their 15 regular-season roster spots, 13 of them are filled with guaranteed deals. The other two, held by Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu, are non-guaranteed which means those players can be waived at any time before Jan. 10 without penalty under the salary cap. Then there's one two-way deal remaining for a G-League addition.

The case for Mac is the strongest. Entering his second year after going undrafted in 2016, he has an NBA gear. There are no statistics that’ll reflect this but it is clear when he’s on the court with nine other players.

Mac, who scored a team-high 20 points on 8 of 11 shots Tuesday, can get to spots on the floor when seemingly there are none. He can finish or create space by initiating contact and can shift down a speed with a Euro step to knife through traffic to find the rim.

[RELATED: John Wall hasn't made up mind about extension]

Mac will be out of control at times and has to tighten his ball-handling but he’s too good to let walk at $1.3 million. He can handle the speed of NBA play and is better in the open court.

The case for Ochefu can be made but he could end up a numbers game casualty with $30 million this season tied up into proven vets, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. The caveat, of course, is both are well past 30 and Mahinmi is coming off a season in which he missed 50 games with issues with both knees.

Ochefu, who went undrafted last year and earns the same as Mac on a non-guarantee, hasn’t gotten as much time and could benefit from the G-League once the Wizards have a team in 2018, but can they wait that long? He had nine points and 10 rebounds against Chicago.

If a move is possible involving Gortat or Mahinmi before the regular season tips, Ochefu would make sense as a more affordable option. He has a soft touch around the rim and is an adept passer out of the post.

[RELATED: Who is the best player in Wizards/Bullets history?]

With one of their maximum of two two-way contracts filled by Michael Young, that’s where another developmental player can land. The spot can pay anywhere from $75,000-$275,000 pending how many days are spent with the full team during the regular season.

Young, a combo forward, has a solid defensive IQ and did well to stay in front of guards on switches and battled bigger players on the low block as well. He’s also able to bring the ball up the floor to start the offense and push tempo.

The best of the rest (alphabetical) based on how they've played so far at summer league with two games remaining: Jared Cunningham; Marcus Keene; Jaleel Roberts; and Devin Robinson.

Danuel House is with the Wizards for the second year in a row after being released late last season and hasn't looked the part given his experience. He shot 0-for-7 and had three turnovers. House didn't play in the second summer league game but got the start Tuesday.

The Wizards will invite a group back to attend training camp that'll likely begin in the last week of September with some familiar names from the summer league team. Others will be new arrivals, but roster spots will be limited if any are available at all.

[RELATED: Kings never extended max offer sheet to Otto Porter]

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Who is the best player in Wizards/Bullets history? J. Michael gives his

Who is the best player in Wizards/Bullets history? J. Michael gives his

As part of CSN’s Summer Series, we ran a bracket to determine the best player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. We considered all of the greats - Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, John Wall and more - to come up with the very best of all-time. Come watch the debut of the hour-long special with CSN on Friday night at 7 p.m.!

Before the Wizards were the Wizards, they were the Bullets and went to the NBA Finals four times behind the franchise’s best player Wes Unseld.

There have been players with better statistics and who were more attractive to watch on the offensive end, but the grit and muscle that Unseld brought to the center spot during a time when all-time greats at his position dominated the game was a necessary component to winning.

Unseld never averaged more than 16.2 points per game. He never shot better than 56.1% from the field. But like Bill Russell who had similar numbers in winning 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, he controlled the paint.

To make his task even more difficult, Unseld was just 6-7 as the second overall pick in the 1968 draft. He had to contend with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his sky hook. Despite Unseld being seven inches shorter, he defended him better than anyone else in the league.

[RELATED: CSN to host watch party on Friday for Wizards/Bullets 'Best of the Best' special]

Realizing he wasn’t able to contest the hook at its apex, Unseld would disrupt Abdul-Jabbar’s rhythm by cutting his steps short to throw off his timing.

In winning the franchise’s only championship, Unseld had to deal with the relatively unsung Marvin Webster who was a force in the 1978 postseason.

Unseld was not only rookie of the year but league MVP for the same season. He was MVP of the ’78 Finals in averaging just 9.4 points and 12.0 rebounds.

Legendary because of his ability to rebound the ball in the air on one end and hit the backboard with an outlet pass at the other end, Unseld is in a category that is all his own.

Today’s game has de-emphasized his position in favor of small ball, finesse bigs who stop their sprint at the three-point arc. The rule changes have taken bigs defensively out of the paint, too, requiring better mobility.

Suffice to say, there will never be another player like Unseld.

For more on our 'Best of the Best' special, check these links:

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (1) Wes Unseld vs. (16) Juwan Howard

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (2) Elvin Hayes vs. (15) Caron Butler

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (3) John Wall vs. (14) Rod Strickland

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (4) Walt Bellamy vs. (13) Chris Webber

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (5) Phil Chenier vs. (12) Antawn Jamison

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (6) Earl Monroe vs. (11) Bernard King

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (7) Gus Johnson vs. (10) Gilbert Arenas

Wizards/Bullets Best of the Best: (8) Moses Malone vs. (9) Michael Jordan