With the Washington Wizards getting ambushed in the third quarter of losses against Toronto and Golden State, Marcin Gortat was reduced to the role of spectator for the entire fourth quarter in both games.
After playing seven minutes in the second half against Toronto, Gortat received just four second-half minutes in the Wizards’ 112-96 loss to the Warriors and was on the receiving end of some animated “coaching” from Coach Randy Wittman early in the third period, when the Wizards surrendered a 30-5 run.
Wittman called a 20-second timeout less than two minutes in the period after two bad sequences. Gortat got the ball on the left block, tried unsuccessfully to back down Warriors center Andrew Bogut, turned and shot an air ball. On the next possession, he failed to step out on Bogut and let him knock down a long jumper.
Chewing out Gortat while chewing his gum, Wittman denied that the exchange was anything serious or unusual. Gortat threw up his hands and nodded his head as Wittman spoke to him.
“He had a spirited conversation with me? I was coaching him, you mean?” Wittman said when asked about what he said to Gortat. “You’re saying there was a confrontation? I have a conversation with everybody on our team. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Wittman put Gortat back in the game, but pulled him less than three minutes later. Beal fed Gortat for a layup but he missed badly. Then, Gortat was off-balanced and slow to react when Bogut throw down an alley-oop dunk off an unscripted, off-the-backboard pass from Stephen Curry. After Klay Thompson hit a three-pointer to give the Warriors a 69-58-point lead, Gortat sat with 10 points and six rebounds and didn’t return.
“How I felt? I knew I screw up two places, one offensively, one defensively and I guess, that was it,” Gortat said. “It was a coaching decision. I was ready to play.”
Though Gortat was the only starter to not see the floor in the fourth quarter, Wittman said Gortat’s benching had more to do with the score than the performance of the Polish center.
“He didn’t play because we were down 25. I had to look to make changes,” Wittman said. “That’s coaching. I got to do that.”
The Wizards were able to make a run with a front line of Nene and Jan Vesely and closed within 92-81 when Vesely fed Nene for a dunk with 9 minutes 44 seconds remaining.
“There is a reason that happened. The intensity. We weren’t going to get there the other way,” Wittman said. “If we aren’t going to [play with intensity], I have to shuffle. I got to get guys in and out. We can’t have the lulls of low energy throughout, like we do. … Sometimes, maybe, they’re not realizing their doing it. Our intensity is not where it needs to be. It’s not one or two people. This is a group. There wasn’t one guy pulling the boat and nobody else was following.”
Gortat has probably benefited the least from having Nene come off the bench while he recovers from a sore right Achilles’ tendon.
In the past 12 games since Trevor Booker moved into the starting lineup, Gortat is averaging 10.8 points on 48.8 percent shooting and 7.2 rebounds. In the 16 previous games – including 15 starts alongside Nene – Gortat averaged 13.4 points on 56.5 percent shooting and 9.1 rebounds.
He complained about a lack of touches inside after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last month and hasn’t grabbed 10 or more rebounds since Dec. 21. But Gortat was more concerned about the play of the team than his performance of late.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Gortat said. “I think we definitely need the team bond a little bit. Go on the road, stay together in the bus, plane, hotel, maybe a dinner and just talk to each other. I don’t think there is anything going on with the team, I don’t think there is any problem. We just got to stick together. We hit really tough time right now. We lost three games and we just got to work on it.”
When asked how to fix the problem, Gortat started to give an answer and stopped as head athletic trainer Eric Waters interrupted his interview by rolling a cooler loudly down the hallway and walking in front of the cameras.
“That was just one of the attitudes like, ‘I just don’t care,’ ” Gortat said, laughing to himself. “We got to fix that, for example. We got to fix our trainer.”