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Marcin Gortat again wonders if his time with Wizards is over, but wants to be back

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Marcin Gortat again wonders if his time with Wizards is over, but wants to be back

If Marcin Gortat was doubtful of his future in Washington in previous years, you can imagine how he feels now with just one season left on his contract. With an expiring deal, Gortat now has more trade value in theory. The Wizards have discussed trades involving the veteran center in the past and that process could ramp up this summer.

Following the Wizards' playoff exit in 2017, he wondered if his time with the Wizards was over because the presence of Ian Mahinmi and the evolution of the NBA towards more athletic big men who can play above the rim and stretch the floor.

After their first round loss to the Raptors over the weekend, Gortat shared similar thoughts at the Wizards' locker room cleanout day.

"Last year, I said, 'I'm going to speak to my agent and I'm going to tell him if this is the right fit.' Well, this year it's even more of that stuff because I have the last year of the contract. I know how the league goes," he said.

Gortat says he's prepared for that possibility and is hoping that if he does indeed get dealt, it will not come as a surprise.

"I think if it is the worst-case scenario, I want to be ready. If something's happening, I want to be informed. I don't want to read this little headline on the bottom of ESPN: 'Gortat gets traded.' And I'm finding out from TV," he said. "I would like to know that from my agent. But we'll see."

Gortat, 34, has spent the last five seasons in Washington. He is due to earn $13.6 million in the 2018-19 season.

This past year, he averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. Those were all his lowest in those categories since the 2009-10 season, his third year in the NBA.

With Mahinmi on the roster and healthy, and with head coach Scott Brooks favoring small-ball lineups, playing time dried up for Gortat. He started all 82 games for the Wizards, but did not receive starter's minutes.

His role has clearly diminished, but Gortat wouldn't mind staying in D.C. if that's what the Wizards choose to do.

"I'm the oldest guy on the team. By the passport, the oldest guy. Because for real, [in terms of physical shape] I'm pretty much younger than anybody on this team," he said. "I'm good. I have one more year. I would like to fill out that year here, in Washington, but we'll see what's going to happen."

Gortat has derided small-ball in recent years as someone affected directly by it. Whenever the Wizards go small and put Markieff Morris or Mike Scott at center, that means Gortat spends more time on the bench.

Gortat has spoken at length about the center position changing in the NBA. He knows he is a dying breed as a power-style center without a big vertical leap or outside shot.

Though some have developed the latter over the course of their careers, Gortat believes it's too late for him. He has attempted only 20 three-pointers in his 759 career games.

"I truly believe I'm a solid, good shooter up to 15, 17 feet. But I'm not going to shoot threes. No, I'm not going to do that," Gortat said. "This summer I'm going to work on my tan. I'm going to work on my six-pack. Get my bicep definition a bit better."

Gortat has provided value over the years with his rebounding and ability to set screens as well as anyone in the league. He and point guard John Wall have developed a strong chemistry in the pick-and-roll.

But Wall knows the way the league is going and would like to see the Wizards add a more athletic big man this offseason. If the Wizards were to find one, and it's much easier said than done, Gortat could see his minutes go down even further.

Gortat, though, believes he can still produce playing the style that he does. He pointed to the 2016-17 season, when he averaged a career-high 10.4 rebounds.

"I have a lot left in my tank. I have one more year contract here and I want to come back to be the guy that I was last year. And I'm hoping that I get this opportunity," he said.

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Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. offer advice for Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. offer advice for Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. doesn't need to look far to find a blueprint for success this season, the final year of his rookie scale contract. Both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. were in the exact same situation, and while they were teammates with Oubre. Each of them knocked the test of a contract year out of the park.

Both Beal and Porter earned max deals from the Wizards after breakout seasons in contract years. Oubre, of course, would like to make a lot of money for himself. When asked to share advice for Oubre, Beal and Porter spoke their piece in different ways, but the message ultimately was much the same. 

Beal spoke in-depth and with his trademark even-keel approach. Porter was characteristically brief.

"Don't worry about it. It will take care of itself," Beal told NBC Sports Washington. "I'm not gonna sit here and say that it's easy to do because it's your brand, it's your life, it's your money... but I always say that with your money you are going to get rewarded and taken care of at the end of the day."

"Just continue to work hard and everything else will take care of itself," Porter said.

Beal sees some similarities in Oubre and Porter and not just because they play the same position as small forwards. Oubre, like Porter in the 2016-17 season, has to operate in a secondary role. Beal was a central focus of the offense in 2015-16, his contract year.

"It will be tough to do because you've gotta think [Oubre] is coming off the bench," Beal explained.

"I always use Otto as an example. Otto did everything he was supposed to do, everything coach asked him to, everything the organization asked him to and he got rewarded for it. It's plain and simple. His game is simple, honestly. I feel like Kelly can be the exact same way... It's just a matter of him staying level-headed and just not worrying about it too much."

If Oubre has any questions, Beal seems like the guy to go to. It's clear in talking about Oubre that Beal genuinely cares for him and his future.

Beal also cares for the future of the Wizards and would like Oubre to remain in Washington.

"Kelly is super-athletic. The sky is the ultimate limit for him," Beal said. "He is somebody who has star potential, somebody who we are crazy to think that other teams aren't going to try to go after him. We've gotta realize that."

Beal said he will do his part to help Oubre, if the fourth-year forward needs it. Having been there before, he feels like he can be a resource.

"He's like my little brother, so as much as I can I will try to keep him level-headed and try to not keep him focused on it. It's definitely easier said than done," Beal said.

Technically, Oubre could sign a new deal with the Wizards before the Oct. 15 deadline for rookie scale contract extensions, but those types of deals are relatively rare. Only a handful of players sign them each year. And for the Wizards, their salary situation beyond this season is bloated with $116.4 million committed to six players. That includes the raise John Wall will receive in the first year of his max contract extension.

Oubre also may be better served by waiting it out. Beal and Porter bet on themselves and won out. As long as Oubre can stay healthy and continue to develop this season, he should follow suit.


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Day 1 of Wizards training camp features focus on defense, Mahinmi hitting threes, praise for new facility

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Day 1 of Wizards training camp features focus on defense, Mahinmi hitting threes, praise for new facility

The Washington Wizards' new practice facility features all sorts of bells and whistles between a virtual reality room and a sensory deprivation tank. The biggest takeaway, though, from players and coaches after the first day of 2018-19 training camp was the simple fact they have more space.

The Wizards used to practice at Capital One Arena at what was known as the practice court. Notice that 'court' is not plural. They had one, and all the Wizards players had to share it.

Now, the Wizards have two courts in their practice area and technically a third if you count where the Go-Go and Mystics will play their home games. All three are located at the newly-minted Medstar Wizards Performance Center in Ward 8.

Beyond simply having more room to stretch out their NBA-sized frames, Wizards players don't have to share hoops or wait their turn as often while practicing their shot.

"It just makes us better prepared," forward Otto Porter, Jr. said. "I think more guys can get more shots up, more goals. I'm tired of everybody shooting on my goal. I have the freedom to get extra shots up."

There are more courts and more rooms at their disposal. Front office executives even have offices that overlook the practice area. 

"There’s so much space, and there’s so much room for the coaches. It’s like a coach’s dream," head coach Scott Brooks said. "You got a lot of baskets. You got all the facilities, the weight room, the training room, everything, the film room. Everything is outstanding. So, it’s important."

Defensive mentality

A brand new building helps the mindset of new beginnings for the Wizards as they open another training camp with another season on the horizon. Brooks said Day 1 was a productive one, highlighted by tone-setting conditioning drills and a sharp focus on defense.

The first message Brooks wanted to deliver to his team this season was that they have to improve on that end of the floor.

"First thing is defense," Brooks said. "We need to get better defensively. I really believe we should be top 10. I’m not saying we should lead the league in defense, but we should be top 10. Last year, [we were 15th in points allowed and defensive rating], middle of the pack. We don’t wanna settle for middle. We wanna be a top-10 team."

Brooks believes having newly-acquired center Dwight Howard protecting the rim can help that cause. And after the Wizards get their stops, Brooks wants to see more zip up and down the court.

"[Second is] playing with pace. We’ve got a lot of speed. We’ve gotta use that every time down the court, because it can be intimidating. We can score early in the shot clock. We got the fastest point guard in the league [in John Wall], and in order to do that, we need all four other guys running with him," Brooks said.

Mahinmi for 3?

Day 1 of training camp can bring all sorts of goals, some loftier than others. Like, for instance, is it realistic to expect center Ian Mahinmi to develop a three-point shot?

Mahinmi, like the other Wizards' big men, participated in three-point drills towards the end of practice and actually made a few.

Mahinmi has never made a three-pointer at the NBA level and has just eight attempts in his 10-year career. Brooks, though, says it's not all that crazy of an idea.

"Don’t be surprised if he shoots threes. He made 65 out of 100 last week," Brooks said.

Like any season, reality will set in at some point. But don't blame the Wizards, now training in a new facility, for thinking bigger.