When the Washington Wizards made the 11th-hour trade with the Phoenix Suns to acquire Marcin Gortat less than a week before this past season, the move may have seemed to some like an undersize band-aid for the bigger issues surrounding the Wizards’ recent ineptitude.
The 6-foot-11 Gortat was in the last year of his contract and his brute-force approach in the post mirrored that of his new interior sidekick, Nene. During the best 80-plus game season of Gortat’s eight-year career (13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds) and the Wizards’ first postseason appearance in six years, it was clear the big man with an equally big mouth was a good fit for the Wizards.
Both Gortat and team officials made this much clear last week by agreeing in principle to a five-year, $60 million contract on July 1, the first day of free agency. On Thursday, the 30-year-old officially signed his new long-term deal, marking what he called “the best day of his life” while offering some equally memorable comments.
Here are some highlights from his Thursday news conference:
On his feelings about the Wizards: “Washington was always the number one option. I like the city, I like the team, I like the environment, I like the people that work around the organization. I don’t think I ever had a better relationship than I have with (team President) Ernie (Grunfeld) and with (Senior Vice President) Tommy Sheppard, so it’s big, very important for me to be in an environment where I feel very comfortable. I like the coach, Randy Wittman. I believe he’s doing the right thing. He put me in a situation to be successful and hopefully for the next five years we’re going to be successful as a team.”
On how the Wizards met his desires as a free agent: Every point of that list was pretty much checked with the Washington Wizards. We have John Wall, who’s one of the best point guards in this league. I truly believe next year he can definitely be top two, top three point guards in this league. He’s definitely not a selfish guy. … I definitely love the coach, I have a great chemistry with him. He knows what I can bring to the table. It’s up to him whether he’s going to use me or I’m going to be a role player. It’s totally up to him. … We’re not in the process of rebuilding. You don’t want to be in a situation where a team is losing 60 games a year. I’ve been on a team like that and it’s not fun. It’s always better to compete for a championship. All these points were checked for me so like I said, Washington from day one was pretty much my number one option.”
On what it means for his native country of Poland: “It’s definitely going to put me in the first two spots making the most money in my country, which is kind of funny because I hold that spot for the past two years and looks like I’ll continue to hold it. All depends how the other soccer players gonna play. … Personally, I would say my dad got a lot of gold medals and he can weigh all these medals for pound and kilograms. I never going to get all these medals but with one check I’m going to make more than he’s going to make in his entire life [Gortat’s father, Janusz, won bronze medals for boxing in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics].
On the Wizards’ pursuit of Trevor Ariza: “Trevor was one of the players that got rings in this league and we’d like to have him back. His experience, his length, his quickness, his ability to shoot threes. He was a big piece of our team for the last eight months and we would like to have him back. I know Ernie is doing all he can to get him back. We’ve got to make sure we make the right decision as a team, as an organization. I know if it be so easy, he would be here already but at end of the day, it’s not an easy decision to make.”
On if he’s talked to Nene since Brazil’s World Cup loss: “Well, I’m afraid to talk to him [laughs]. It’s a tough time for his country and for him, probably. That’s why I tweeted I hope Nene’s OK. Some people took it wrong way; they starting getting nervous, ‘Oh my God did he get hurt? What happened to him?’ Stuff like that. People just didn’t understand the joke. It was all about Brazil losing…getting destroyed might be more (appropriate), seven to one. It was a tough situation, so I didn’t text him because I know it gets on nerves when people joke like that.”
And what about that tank? “Every year for the past seven years, I have (basketball) camps back in Poland. We had four camps this year and after fourth camp, we had a celebrity game between my celebrities, athletes and we playing against Polish army. So what happened is Polish army was kind enough to just bring a few toys. They brought the toys right in front of the hotel and all the celebrities, all the athletes, we were able to jump on the different reinforced cars, tanks and different transporters, humvees and different stuff and we were able to go down where we played the game.”
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) June 30, 2014