NEW YORK -- With the Wizards facing the Knicks Friday, I decided to head over to the team's shootaround at Madison Square Garden and nerd out with Marcin Gortat about how he runs the pick and roll so proficiently. It was a short conversation, but an interesting one.
Here's a transcript.
I remember something you said after the second game of the season. You said you were getting used to John Wall's different style, how he was more of a scorer. What did you guys learn about each other to get your chemistry down?
Well, I think it just takes time. I just think it takes time to develop chemistry on the court and off the court. I've got to get to know him [on the court], I've got to get to know him off the court, I've got to make sure he feels comfortable. We've just been able to talk about a lot of different things. When you do that, you automatically feel like you want to play with that guy in a game too.
We had some games where they would really trap him and we had some games where the point guard was just trying to get through the screen and stick to him like glue. I make sure that he's going to be able to run it freely. I have to make sure I set a good screen for him, push the guy and make sure that he's going to be released from that pressure. My job is to make sure that he's going to get into the pocket, and at the same time, his job is to make sure he's going to hit me in the right spot where I'm comfortable, so when he gets me the ball, I'm in the sweet spot to make my move.
It's getting better and better. We're just getting better and better each time. He learned to read the game a little bit better. He's doing that better than he was at the beginning of the season. He's made huge steps as a point guard in general.
Was there ever conversation where you said something like, 'I like to roll this way'?
Of course. Of course. I said this to him other day. I said 'This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to set the screen and then flip the screen sometimes.' Sometimes, he tells me, 'OK, today I want you to just roll halfway down and stop in the middle.' Sometimes he'll just say to set a screen this way, because they're flipping the screen. Sometimes, he'll want me to set a screen on their big man [a different way]. We're having this conversation all the time.
How do you decide when to stop, when to roll all the way, etc?
You've got to read the defense and you've got to read the defender. If you have a slow defender, then obviously you can roll halfway. If you've got a non-athletic defender, you can also try to roll all the way and try to dunk on him, go around him. If you have a defender that likes to commit more to John, just get open and that'll give a lot of space for me as a roll man. It's all about the D. You've got to read that.
What's your favorite pick and roll set that you guys run? There are a couple I like, but was curious to hear if you had one.
Basically, just the pick and roll on the top is probably the best. Then, on the side, but on top is the best. The most important thing is for [Wall] to wait for the pick and roll [to develop]. He's so quick, he can lose any defender, any guy guarding him in the first two steps. That makes him really good.
There's one I like where you guys swing it around, he sets a backpick for someone to cut through and then gets it back for the pick and roll ...
Yeah, because he's automatically releasing his defender. Yeah. But we run a lot of [pick and roll plays], and there are a lot of different situations. It just depends how the defender his guarding him. I don't have one specific favorite set.