Marcin Gortat watched John Wall’s corner three-pointer bounce high off the rim, curled around Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap and hammered home a furious one-handed jam. As his Wizards teammates hopped from their seats to applaud, Gortat angrily strutted back.
Gortat embraces being big, loves banging inside, and isn’t caught up in following other 6-foot-11 or taller players who would prefer to parade around the perimeter shooting jumpers rather than mixing it up and throwing people around. For that reason, Gortat has grown frustrated with a lack of touches near the basket and said he would speak to Coach Randy Wittman about his role in the offense after a lackluster outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I don’t like the position I play,” Gortat said after scoring just six points on 3-of-10 shooting in the Wizards’ 113-96 loss on Saturday at Verizon Center. “I’m constantly drifting more and more away from the basket. That’s not my game. I’m capable of making one or two plays like that away from the basket, but I feel more comfortable underneath the basket.”
Nearly 37 percent (84 of 228) of Gortat’s shots this season have come outside the paint, which is much higher than his previous two seasons in Phoenix. The Clippers were content with letting him shoot him jumpers. And, after letting Gortat throw down that vicious putback jam, the Hawks used a similar strategy in Friday’s 101-99 overtime loss at Philips Arena.
Late in regulation in Atlanta, Gortat had an open look but hesitated, then forced a pass to Trevor Booker that was intercepted by Al Horford. The Hawks would tie the game and force overtime on the next possession.
“I just think I have to talk to Coach and clear things up and make sure we are on the same page,” Gortat said.
The Wizards (9-13) are on another four-game losing streak, which has likely contributed to some of Gortat’s exasperation. The past three losses have also come with Nene sidelined because of tendinitis in his right Achilles’. Gortat leads the Wizards in field goal percentage this season (53.9) but he has shot 17 for 37 (45.9 percent) over the past three games.
Trevor Booker has had some solid performances in Nene’s absence, including two double-doubles, and Kevin Seraphin scored a season-high 16 points against the Clippers. But the Wizards are lacking another playmaker on offense aside from John Wall with the Brazilian big man sidelined.
Opposing teams have also made a concerted effort to shut down a staple of the Wizards’ offense – the three-point shot. The Wizards have connected on just 12 of 52 attempts from long distance in the past three games, which takes away any space Gortat would otherwise have to operate inside. Gortat is at his best cutting to the rim on pick-and-rolls but teams aren’t allowing him to get behind them for scoring opportunities.
“He’s just not taking the same shots we’re used to him taking, especially in pick-and-roll situations. He’s turned a lot of those down the last couple of games,” Wall said. “He’s got to get his confidence back, especially in the fourth quarter when guys are going to trap me on pick-and-rolls. It’s up to him to make the play. We still believe in him to make those shots, to make those extra passes. He’s just got to get back into a rhythm.”
Though upset, Gortat accepted responsibility for his struggles. “At the end of the day, it’s tough, you just have to make a play,” he said.