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Marcin Gortat stays in charitable mood all year long


Marcin Gortat stays in charitable mood all year long

Marcin Gortat tends to spread himself thin between basketball and all of his off-court activities, from flying in kids from his camps in Poland to giving away tickets to random fans for every home game via social media and sitting down to eat with them.

In the midst of his shaky start to the season with the Wizards, it's easy to ignore that he doesn't take his $60 million contract for granted.

“I decided to create more projects here in the United States," he said. 

Gortat is donating $200 for every blocked shot to local charities that focus on youth basketball and hockey, education and scholarship, children's health and fitness, military and veterans' affairs and hunger and homelessness. After last night's 109-101 win vs. the Charlotte Hornets, when Gortat tallied two blocks, that raises his season total to 27. Each charity chosen by Gortat will received a minimum of $2,000 from him.

"In the beginning it was rebounds but then we decided blocks. If I’m going to go with blocks, it’s going to give me that extra motivation to go get that block in a game. That’s my goal. I’m hoping to lead the team with at least two blocks a game. I truly believe I’m capable,' Gortat, who averages 1.2 after 22 games played, said earlier in the season. "I just have to commit to it."




With the way the Wizards are playing reaching two per game will be challenging. Against Charlotte, they switched everything which took Gortat away from the basket and challenging guards and forwards at the three-point line. In the first quarter of an upset against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gortat had a season-high four blocks. 

The Wizards had an off day in the middle of a hectic stretch of games, and Gortat was at Verizon Center hosting boys and girls from Poland that he flew into town. He ran them through drills, took them around the city and had them attend a game and meet his teammates. And in between all of this, Gortat had to return to his country to tend to his mother while she was hospitalized and missed three games.

Gortat's season began by donating two tickets to every home game to fans who follow him or the team's social media accounts to find out about his giveaways. He gets swarmed. He has struggled at times but is averaging 12.8 points and 9.0 rebounds.

"I want to interact with fans and appreciate everything they do for us. They're really supporting me," said Gortat, who changed from No. 4 to No. 13 and created the MG13 "Aim High" Foundation. "It’s really nice when you’re running into people on the street, and everybody says, ' You don’t have to (worry about) your car we’re going to look over it. You can go eat. Don’t worry about it.' It’s very cool."

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards lock down Hornets 109-101: Five takeaways


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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.