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Marcin Gortat mentions possibility of playing elsewhere, devalued role of centers

Marcin Gortat mentions possibility of playing elsewhere, devalued role of centers

When the trade deadline came and went a few months ago, Marcin Gortat was surprised to still be with the Wizards.

He seems to be bracing for a possible change now that their season ended in the East semifinals for the third time in five years, but he has two years left on his contract.

Gortat is realistic about the possiblities of what might happen after a 49-win season. He has two years left on a five-year deal that he signed for $60 million in 2014. The Wizards signed Ian Mahinmi, who was his backup, to four years for $64 million last summer.

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"I had 103 games this year and I haven't missed even one game. I didn't miss one practice or shootaround. On top of that I'm the oldest guy on the team," Gortat said during exit interviews. "I know how the business works. I'm the oldest guy on the team. They signed Ian also. He's younger than me and he got a longer contract. I just know how the business works so I'm prepared for everything just in case. We're going to talk. I'm going to talk to Ernie (Grunfeld). I'm going to talk to managment and we're going to figure it out."

Gortat didn't have a strong finish to the regular season as the double-doubles stopped. He had just six points and a game-high 11 rebounds in a Game 7 loss in Boston on Monday night. He shot 2-for-6 and had four turnovers as the Wizards couldn't take advantage of the smaller lineups the Celtics rolled out. 

Mahinmi played 11 minutes but was ineffective as he didn't grab a rebound or score. He picked up four fouls. 

"We tried to do out best," Gortat said of the 115-105 game 7 loss at TD Garden. "We had five talented guys in the starting lineup. Everybody wants to score. Everybody wants to be the guy but there's only one basketball. Somebody has to do sacrifices for the team. We just came up short.

"People don't thow balls into the post-up anymore because percentage-wise it's better to shoot a few more threes. ... It's not a secret. At the same time somebody has to take sacrifices for this team. You can't have five guys scoring, every game, 20 points. That's impossible. Nobody can do that. That's why someobdy has to be responsible for collecting rebounds and setting screens. Soembody else got to score. That's how it is on this team. I feel like this year it was me doing a lot of sacrificing. I got one of the most (under)appreciated positions in the NBA. Nobody respects centers anymore. Nobody looks at them as a valuable piece. I've been doing a lot of things for the team to win.

"I know there's a lot of freaking idiots looking directly at the column with the points telling me that, 'You only score four to six points. We lost because of you.' That's how it is. People that know basketball, they know what I bring to the table."

 

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When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

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USA Today

When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After the Los Angeles Lakers selected Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft, only one point guard (Allen Iverson) went No. 1 before the Washington Wizards snagged John Wall in 2010. Kyrie Irving’s selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers the following season turned an anomaly into a trend. A rivalry was born, debates began.

Fan bases and ardent backers made valid points and outlandish claims for their guy and against the other. This continued even after Irving joined the Celtics in 2017 and as physical ailments limited both players.

Entering the latest showdown, the head-to-head count read 8-8. Another thriller ensued. Irving took the win-loss lead from the speedy Wall Wednesday with a magical overtime performance in Boston’s 130-125 win.

For Stephen A. Smith, Irving scoring 38 points including the Celtics’ final 12 didn’t nudge the Boston star ahead of Wall, who wowed with 34 points and 13 assists. It just helped shine a light on a gap that already existed.

“It was a nice matchup. John showed up to play. I thought he played well in the fourth quarter. Over time he got a little bit erratic. That’s to be understood going up against Kyrie. Kyrie is special. Kyrie is something special. He’s just a spectacular player,” the often outspoken ESPN analyst told NBC Sports Washington following the game.

“John Wall reminded you how talented he is,” Smith continued, “but in the process, he also reminded you there are levels to this. Kyrie is just on another level and there is no other way around that.”

That statement joins a list of bold commentary in the long-running Wall-Irving arguments. There are certain dynamics that back up this claim.

Wall racks up assists, but Irving laps him as a shooter. Both players are five-time All-Stars with a single All-NBA selection. Irving’s résumé also includes Olympic Gold for Team USA in 2016 and one of the biggest shots in league history. He sank the series-winning jumper for Cleveland in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Wizards, while improved recently compared to franchise norms, have not advanced beyond the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs since Wall's arrival.

“They’re very, very talented. There is no doubt about that,” Smith, who attended Wednesday’s contest, said of the guards.  “But in the same breath, they’re not on the same page. 

"John Wall is a tremendous, tremendous talent. His success is predicated on his ability to get to the basket, his athleticism, his conditioning. He came into this season he was clearly not in ideal shape. He was heavier than he usually is. He’s never really, really truly improved that jump shot.”

Irving’s heroics Wednesday included two 3-pointers in the final minute, one a go-ahead bomb with 17.3 seconds remaining. Wall missed the second of Washington two game-tying attempts from beyond the arc on the next possession.

“When you look at Kyrie Irving, how did he stick the dagger in you? Long 3’s,” Smith said. “Now, John can do that from time to time, but you can’t rely on him to do it. When he makes those shots you say, ‘Thank God.’ When Kyrie makes those shots you say, ‘Yeah, that’s what he’s supposed to do because that’s what he does.’

“A perfect example is that the game is waning, you’re in overtime. (Wizards guard) Bradley Beal misses a 3-pointer. You’re John Wall. You get the ball back. You launch a three when you should have got it back to Bradley Beal because he’s the shooter. That’s not what you do, but that’s what John Wall did. Again, that’s the kind of thing you look at.”

Wall’s primary statistics this season – 21.0 points, 8.5 assists – are worthy of All-Star consideration. His overall game is more under the microscope than usual because of the Wizards’ slow start and his four-year, $170 million contract extension that tips off next season.

“You look at [Wall] as a big-time talent. Somebody who I felt was worthy of his money considering the fact that it’s not like you can go out and get Kevin Durant or somebody like that. In the same breath, you’re looking for him to improve upon the game that he already has, not to bring you back the same old, same old,” Smith said.

“Unfortunately, that’s what you’re seeing right now. You’re seeing a guy who is a big-time talent, who can ball, but who is giving you nothing different or nothing better than what he’s been giving you, and that hasn’t been good enough to get this team to the next level. That’s where you have a problem if you’re the Washington Wizards.”

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is heating up and might be solving his issues at home

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Kelly Oubre Jr. is heating up and might be solving his issues at home

Over the past week-plus, the Wizards have overall been trending in the wrong direction, now with three straight losses and injuries to John Wall and Otto Porter Jr. But over the past five games, Kelly Oubre Jr. has quietly been playing some of the best basketball of his career.

In his last five outings, Oubre has scored at least 19 points in four of them. He has amassed 96 total points, his most ever in a five-game stretch.

That breaks out to an average of 19.2 per contest and he got that number while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 44 percent from three. He also grabbed 4.2 rebounds and posted 1.6 steals and a block per game.

With Porter out for the better part of the past two games, Oubre has capitalized on the extra minutes. He scored 23 against the Pacers in 37 minutes and then 20 vs. the Celtics in 38 minutes.

The latter came at home where Oubre has for some reason been much worse this season. He is shooting just 38.3 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three at home compared to 46.8 percent and 37.2 percent on the road.

Against the Celtics, Oubre went 7-of-15 overall and 3-for-8 from three.

"Kelly's been on a nice little rhythm shooting the ball," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's good to see him make some threes at home because he hasn't made them this year and hopefully this game can catapult him to making some threes because we need him to make those shots."

Oubre, in fact, has been turning it around at home in the past few weeks. In his last seven home games going back to Nov. 16, he's shooting 46.7 percent from the field, about his season average on the road.

During this five-game surge, Oubre has moved into third place on the Wizards in scoring this season. His 13 points per game average is slightly ahead of Dwight Howard (12.8) and outpacing Porter and Markieff Morris, who play more minutes.

Oubre had one of the best quotes of the night after Wednesday's loss when asked about whether making threes at home could boost his confidence. He said he doesn't need anything to boost his confidence.

"I'm always confident. Just look at my jacket," Oubre said while wearing a black coat with the word 'wave' stitched on the front.

Oubre's belief in himself never wavers and that confidence may be growing even more than usual with the way he's played lately. 

That, in theory, is a good thing. Though with Oubre, like many young players, it's important he doesn't take that as a sign he can play outside of himself and outside of the Wizards' system.

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