Marcin Gortat Trade: Nene, Wittman happy to have a "true center" again

Christian Petersen

The Wizards held practice 16 hours after a trade sent an indefinitely injured Emeka Okafor to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat. Wizards players and brass all shared excitement for their newest player to arrive while also lamenting the loss of a great teammate and person in Okafor.

WASHINGTON--"I can answer that question easily: Look at my face."

Nene was grinning ear to ear.

The question was about how he felt about Marcin Gortat's arrival and Nene's ability to move back to his preferred position at power forward. "Now we have a true center."

But don't confuse Nene's smile as anything more than personal relief that he's no longer tasked with being the primary center for 82 games this season.

"I know Emeka; he's a great person," said Nene. "We feel sad for [him]. He was a great teammate, but we need that position."

As of practice this morning, Nene appeared to be the only one on the team that had spoken to Emeka Okafor since the trade sent the center and a protected 2014 first-rounder to Phoenix in exchange for The Polish Hammer himself, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, and Malcolm Lee (the latter three are expected to be waived, but Grunfeld today denied that the decision to do that had been finalized).

"I spoke to [Okafor] at the beginning. He said he respects the situation under these circumstances." Nene also wished Okafor well in his injury recovery and hoped to see his friend back on the court soon.

The Brazilian had a lot of good things to say about the new international addition to the Wizards. "I believe he and I will have a lot of chemistry because we know each other," he said of Gortat. "He and I are international players; we [play] high-IQ basketball... [The front office] did an amazing job. They surprised me. I've known Gortat for a little bit. I like him."

"He's gonna help us a lot. He's a veteran. He's a high-IQ big man. He knows how to play."

Randy Wittman was equally enthusiastic about the addition of Gortat. "With Mek being down, it limited us a little bit from our bigs standpoint. So we felt it was important if we could grab a player such as Marcin it would be a good thing for us. We're really happy about... In our eyes, since we didn't have Mek, we get an extra player... a free body we didn't have.

"[Gortat]'s a guy that can run the floor. He's a big pick and roll guy, obviously. He played with [Steve] Nash and had great success in Phoenix playing the pick and roll. He's going to fit in well like that with John. And he's got good hands... we're very excited about bringing Marcin in here."

The coach said he spoke to Okafor this morning and that he "was very appreciative of his time here. He totally understood the whole situation and why things happened. And he was great. We'll miss Mek. We have a great respect for him coming in here last year, playing 79 games, giving us what he did--not only as a veteran on the floor but in the locker room. We'll miss that."

As much as the team will miss Okafor, Wittman said that they're also relieved to fill a hole in the middle. "Obviously, the bigs like it because it gives them an extra body, especially in practice… I think they understand we were a little light up front."

"He's a huge add to the team. Not just for me," Nene smiled. "But for the team. That helps me a lot [he smiles again], but it's for the team."

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