The chip that Marcin Gortat is carrying on his shoulder keeps growing. After Wednesday's victory vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, when he bested Marc Gasol, the Wizards' center was honest about his inspired play of late.
“I’m fighting for my respect," Gortat said after holding Gasol to 11 points on just nine shots. "(Other centers) are getting a lot of credit for a lot of things that they do and I don’t. I’m just trying to prove myself everyday. That’s it.”
Gortat had 12 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and three assists. In a 113-99 rout of the Sacramento Kings, Gortat ran circles around DeMarcus Cousins for season highs of 27 points and 16 rebounds. Cousins shot just 8 of 22. He had 18 points and six rebounds in a 109-101 win vs. the Charlotte Hornets, defending more on the perimeter on switches which pulled Gortat away from the rim more.
But go back even beyond that, Gortat did a number on the hottest center in the league in Andre Drummond on Nov. 21. He had a modest count of 14 points and eight rebounds but held Drummond, who averages 18 points and 16 rebounds, to eight points and 13 rebounds.
The big upset that gave the Cleveland Cavaliers their first loss at home? It was Gortat, despite knowing that his mother was hospitalized in Poland and he would soon have to take a hiatus, had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The Wizards lost to the Dallas Mavericks without Gortat because they lacked the size to compete with Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki on post-ups. They met again Dec. 12 and won in Dallas behind Gortat's 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Gasol lit up the Wizards for 24 points when Memphis won 112-95 last week on Dec. 14, but Gortat made sure it didn't happen again.
What doesn't appear in the stats are how many shots he forces opponents to shoot over his extended arms. He timed Gasol perfectly, realizing the 7-footer likes to turn to the baseline to take fading jumpers. Gortat was on top of him and made the angle to make the shot almost impossible.
He has defended intelligently one-on-one and also is there on help in his rotations. After being unsure of the new offense and missing Nene, Gortat is starting to look more like the version of himself that averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds with the Phoenix Suns.
Gortat's averages are now 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds but he's remaining business-like realizing the Wizards haven't gotten themselves out of the hole.
"We aren’t getting excited. ... I don’t think we are at .500 yet. We've got to continue to play like that. We are taking it game by game and just playing hard and giving everything that we have.”