Marcin Gortat is no longer with the Wizards after getting traded to the Clippers last Tuesday. For a number of reasons, Gortat had to be moved to another team. Certainly, Gortat could have handled the “team” win tweet situation a bit differently last winter.
It’s unfortunate that the tweet, and John Wall’s handling of that situation became a divide in the Wizards’ fan base. Many believed that Gortat should shut up and “stay in his lane,” if I had to take a page out of LaVar Ball’s vernacular. Meanwhile, others believed that Gortat wasn’t wrong to tweet about the Wizards’ early success during the “Everybody Eats” era. Washington played at their best last winter in late January and early February.
I get it. The tweet wasn’t Gortat’s best moment in Washington. But Wizards fans have been through a lot worse than a tweet — like the infamous gun incident back in 2009. Really, Gortat did a lot more good than bad during his last five seasons in the nation’s capital. It’s those things that we should remember the Polish Machine for.
Gortat was an X-Factor getting the Wizards to their long playoff runs
Gortat came to the Wizards in a trade for Emeka Okafor before the start of the 2013-14 season. Okafor had a solid season for the Wizards the year before, but suffered a career-threatening neck injury that ruled him out for the season.
If the Wizards didn’t have Gortat, they probably would have missed the playoffs in the 2013-14 season. Perhaps that could have sparked drastic changes like firing Randy Wittman two years earlier than he actually was. Or Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards President of Basketball Operations, could have been out the door as well. That certainly sounds like something many Wizards fans wanted at the time — or still want in Grunfeld’s case.
Though firing coaches and general managers satisfies fans in the short term, it’s also possible that the Wizards would have never made the jump to being a playoff-caliber team. Look at how the Sacramento Kings struggled to put a team around DeMarcus Cousins. The Wizards could very well have been like that. Instead, Gortat came to the Wizards in his prime and helped stabilize their needs in the post which leads me to my next point.
Gortat helped Wall develop his pick and roll game
Every great point guard needs a dependable post player behind his back. And every post needs a great point guard who can get him the ball for easy points. Until Gortat came to Washington who already had Nene, Wall was passing the ball to post players like a young JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. Both of them seemed to have their own agendas when they were in Washington.
Over the last five years, Wall didn’t get to throw alley-oops to posts who want to make a highlight play every time. Instead, Gortat was a fundamentally sound center who helped Wall develop his pick and roll game as a young point guard. Gortat has consistently been one of the NBA’s best screen assisters and has good hands to catch Wall’s passes for easy buckets. Sure, Gortat is “spoonfed” many baskets. But again, he’s making his baskets.
The Polish Machine is approachable and authentic
Gortat never faked his feelings. We saw that that could put him in a bad light like the “team” win tweet.
But for the most part, he was an approachable player who loves the fans. Whether it’s giving tickets to fans or inviting people to hang out at a restaurant with him, Gortat was always willing to engage with fans in a positive manner when he can.
Gortat is an Iron Man
The Polish Machine played in 402 of 410 regular season games during his career in Washington, starting in all but two of them. Furthermore, Gortat started and played in every Wizards playoff game in those five years.
Playing and starting in every game is like a perfect attendance award in school because a player doesn’t have to be a superstar to do it. But many other posts in their thirties and even younger suffer injuries and decline quite rapidly in their later years. Gortat declined some last season, but was still one of the league’s most reliable and durable players. I’m thankful Gortat was able to go to work almost every day these last five seasons.
Polish Heritage Night was always LIT!
Gortat is a proud Pole and hosted a Polish Heritage Night every season he was in Washington. It’s a way for him to be proud of his roots. But it’s also a way for fans in the D.C. area to learn more about Poland beyond the fact that Gortat was born there.
It will be sad that the Wizards either won’t have Polish Heritage Night next season — or one where Gortat plays for the Clippers. But it was always a pleasure seeing which guests would come and which people, especially military, whom he wanted to honor.
All things considered, I’m grateful Marcin Gortat played five seasons in Washington. He was never an NBA superstar, but he always came to work every day and got the job done more often than not. The Wizards are in a much better position today than they were in 2013 because Gortat was their anchor in the low post.
Thank you Marcin for being part of the #DCFamily these last five years! You may no longer be wearing a Wizards uniform, but you will always be one in spirit!
I will always call Washington DC my home.4 out of 5 years in playoffs. Division champs and a lot of great https://t.co/r6iYSSfdkV thing has to end to start another.I wish @WashWizards @MonSportsNet @TedLeonsis all the best and I hope to see u in NBA finals one day! PolishHammer pic.twitter.com/F527Kp1LIp— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) June 28, 2018