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Gortat didn't show at Wizards media day to talk about the past

Gortat didn't show at Wizards media day to talk about the past

Marcin Gortat isn't shy about offering an opinion. Sometimes the Wizards' starting center blurts out what's on his mind no matter the level of honesty. That's perhaps why at times the veteran has learned his best response is saying nothing at all. 

The level of silence late last season and at times during Monday's media day at Verizon Center spoke volumes about Gortat's mood during a campaign that ended with the Wizards missing the playoffs, changing head coaches and overhauling the roster. 

Gortat was largely playful with members of the media Monday, whether discussing:

*His initial impressions of new head coach and recent dinner companion Scott Brooks ("He paid the bill for the restaurant, so that's good. He's a good guy.")

* How he and free agent center addition Ian Mahinmi will work together ("I wish to play together with him. At the same time, unfortunately I'm like 99 percent sure only one of us will play at the same time.")

* Why he's intrigued by the addition of fellow European import Tomas Satoransky ("I'm excited to have another white guy on the team.")

When it came to just about anything involving last season, the free-flowing talk dammed up. 

Asked how he hopes Brooks will be different from ex-coach Randy Wittman, Gortat responded, "Oh, man, I don't want to answer this question, man. Sorry." On his mood during the final 2-3 months of last season, he said, "Man, you don't want to know.  I don't want to discuss. It was bad." On frequently ducking out after games before reporters arrived in the locker room, he explained it was to protect his frustrated self from saying who knows what on the record. As to whether winning helps cure the woes, Gortat said, "There was a lot of things going on. It doesn't matter."

Wittman and Gortat clashed at times over the years with the big man's role and minutes, especially in late game situations. The coach twice directed Washington to the Eastern Conference semifinals, but his direct and acerbic form of communication wasn't for everybody. 


The way Gortat sees it, that was then. The "rejuvenated" Polish Machine is ready to hammer whatever comes his way this upcoming season.

"We obviously have a new team," Gortat said with a reference beyond the roster. "What I mean by that is not only the players, but we have a new PR guy, a new guy in the weight room, a new trainer. A few new guys in the marketing (department). We do have a completely new team. Just because we're called the Washington Wizards doesn't mean everything is the same. We have a lot of new things on the team, including the carpet in the locker room. It's fresh. We have a nice logo. We've got two coolers now with drinks, with Gatorade's, not only one. There's a lot of new things around."

Does new mean more fun?

"You know what, I'll answer this question probably in a few weeks, a few months, but what I can tell you right now -- I've been here about a week. It was fun to be here. It was fun to be here and play with these guys pickup games. ...Everybody was running, everybody was doing the right thing. We had fun being here. We were not forced to be here. We really enjoyed being here together and work together," he said.

Gortat, who averaged 13.5 points and 9.9 rebounds in 75 games last season, understands that guards John Wall and Bradley Beal are the main options for a team looking to improve on their disappointing 41-41 record. He knows about Brooks's impressive resume from his time with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Perhaps most of all, he understands that he even though he stayed put, the 2016-17 represents a fresh start in Washington.

For the record, outside of a dinner and another interaction, Gortat didn't do any homework on his new coach.

"No, I didn't study.  I definitely didn't study him in my five months off, Coach Brooks," Gortat cracked. "I ain't gonna [BS] you here.  I was studying different things in the summer: The beach and the pool."

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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.


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How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


Though there are several events this summer that could ultimately define the Wizards' offseason, one storyline will hang over everything and factor into just about every decision made by the front office and whomever ends up leading it as the team's new general manager. That is the future of John Wall, who is set to miss at least most of next season due to a ruptured left Achilles, in what will be the first year of his supermax contract.

Wall had surgery on Feb. 12. Even if he returns one year after going under the knife, he will still miss roughly 50 games next season. When he does come back, there are no guarantees he will be the same player. He turns 29 in September and a ruptured Achilles is a very serious injury, especially for a guy whose game has traditionally been reliant on speed.

The Wizards, of course, hope Wall will regain his peak form, but even if that happens it is unlikely to be the case right away. It may not be until the 2020-21 season until the Wizards get a true read on Wall post-surgery and how much value he can provide while making the money he is due. 

Speaking of the money, Wall will still take up a considerable chunk of the salary cap despite not playing. He is set to earn 35 percent of the cap next season, which right now is projected at about $37.8 million. Though that could technically fluctuate based on the final cap number, the percentage is what matters. The Wizards will basically have to build a roster with only 65 percent of the cap at their disposal.

There is an argument that Wall's injury is one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Supermax contracts, ones that allow players to make a contract that begins at 35 percent of the salary cap, are a new concept. And no one else has suffered such a serious injury while getting paid that type of money. 

It may not be quite what the Brooklyn Nets overcame in the fallout of their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics, the one that resulted in a net loss of three first round picks. But it's a bad situation, one that will require some creativity from whomever is tasked with pulling the Wizards out of it.

The long-term ramifications will depend on how Wall plays when he returns, but the short-term effect will clearly be felt. First, the Wizards have to have an insurance policy at point guard and a good one if they hope to compete for the playoffs. Maybe that is as simple as re-signing Tomas Satoransky, but regardless they have to shore up that position, knowing Wall's status.

Second, the Wizards need to find bargains to fill out the rest of their roster. They will have to find some cheap players simply to reach the 13-player minimum with Bradley Beal's max deal also on the books. Beal will earn roughly $27.1 million next season.

The biggest question as it pertains to Wall may deal with the NBA Draft on June 20. What if the Wizards get some luck in the May 14 draft lottery, but not enough to get the No. 1 pick (i.e. Zion Williamson), and Ja Morant is the best player on the board? Morant, of course, is the Murray State superstar who lit up the NCAA Tournament in March.

Morant is dynamic and has serious star potential, and he plays point guard. Wall was already asked about the potential of the Wizards drafting a point guard with a high pick. He said he would be fine with it, but that when he returns that draft pick can "be a great back-up" to him.

If the Wizards picked Morant, or even Coby White of North Carolina, it would arguably be the smart move to make. They need to select the best player available, no matter the position. 

But if they do take a point guard, that will present a unique dynamic to their locker room, especially if that player turns into a star. What if Morant comes in and lights it up as a rookie? How will Wall deal with that? And could you then put Morant on the bench when Wall returns, as Wall suggests they would?

Those are hypothetical scenarios that can be addressed if they actually enter the equation this summer and beyond. But there is no question that, even as Wall is sidelined with an injury, his presence will loom over the Wizards in many ways.