Wizards’ Marcin Gortat still adjusting to new surroundings


I’m still trying to get in where I fit in. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Marcin Gortat has played 41 games with the Wizards, but his adjustment to playing with his new team is hardly complete. Gortat is still working to fit in, learning the tendencies of teammates, when and how he needs to speak his mind and where and when his touches are going to come. And he also realizes that, with the exception of the initial days after getting traded to Phoenix, that process takes time.

“I’m still in the process of figuring it out,” Gortat said as he makes his return to Phoenix for Friday’s game at US Airways Center. “I think there is only one guy that I really clicked from the get-go, that was Steve Nash [in Phoenix]. You just got to go hard and the guy is going to always find you. That was the only guy that we play from game one like we already play 10 years together. But with any other player in this league, you’ve to spend, 50, 60, 70 games sometimes or even a few years to build a good chemistry and I’m still learning to play with a lot of guys. We might have a game or two where we’re rolling together, we have fun, then we hit the wall and we have another two, three games where we pretty much played together for the first time. We just got to keep playing.”

In his time in Phoenix, and to a lesser extent Orlando, Gortat was used to being on teams surrounded by shooters who gave him space to operate in the low block. But in Washington, Nene and Trevor Booker both work well inside the three-point arc, meaning that they are sometimes in the same spaces.

Gortat excels in pick-and-roll situations, but the offense isn’t set up to get him going; he has taken more than 12 shots in a game just five times. He has taken fewer than 10 shots 17 times — including 11 of the past 17 games — despite shooting 52.1 percent.

“Back in Phoenix, I was obviously one of the options where I could go and score. I played a lot with a four-man who stretched the floor all the way to the three-point line,” said Gortat, who ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 12 points per game. “Here it’s a different story. Nene or Book, they don’t stretch all the way to the three-point line, so you have to find space for both of us and so far, we do a pretty good job. Nene likes to play with me, I like to play with him and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Gortat also isn’t as comfortable trying to assume a leadership role as he did with the Suns, a team that lacked much of a veteran presence last season after dealing Nash and losing Grant Hill in free agency.

“Things changed when I came to Washington, we had a lot of older guys, veterans, in front of me. So I’m kind of shut down right now, from the leader standpoint,” Gortat said. “I just try to lead and show from example how the veterans should be, what should I do as a veteran, show up early in the morning, work on your game just work on the right stuff. I’m trying to guide a guy like Jan Vesely to help him out as much as possible.”

Gortat, though, said the change of scenery has helped him improve and expand his game as a member of the Wizards. “I just think I became, just overall, a better player, better post player, better played that tried to do a bit more outside the paint,” Gortat said. “I think this is probably the biggest point I improve, is to play around Nene without the ball. Try to put yourself in a situation where you can score, you know, dunking and punching little things. Just little details that improve my game.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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