PORTLAND, Ore. – Garrett Temple watched Marcin Gortat moving around tentatively, trying unsuccessfully to mask his pain in the locker room after the Wizards’ 116-103 loss at the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night. When Gortat winced while pulling his shirt from a hanger, Temple asked, “You need any help, man?”
Gortat declined the offer and fought through the tedious process of getting dressed. Putting on shoes presented the toughest challenge for Gortat, whose strained lower back prevented him from bending over and scooping them from under a chair. He reached behind to grab the top of his chair and slowly, gently lowered himself.
After wincing while slipping on his socks and sneering as he put on his shoes, a frustrated Gortat explained why he was forced to miss a game for the first time this season because of a back flare-up that simply became unbearable.
“I had a little problem in the past week, six-seven days,” Gortat said. “At some point, I blew up. I didn’t take care of my body the right way and I should, I guess, I just focus on different areas and this area was the most important thing for me. Unfortunately, it happened.”
Gortat was feeling soreness in his back before the game and thought he would get it loose during his pregame warmup. But he made it worse when he stretched out for dunk and felt a jolt in his back.
“I pulled all the way to the end and I couldn’t move it, so, I had kind of had like a block in my back, I guess a back spasm,” Gortat said. “I’ll be back. It’s not a big deal. Just got to get a few exercises. Get a few treatments and I’ll be back.”
The Wizards (35-33) will take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at Staples Center and Gortat is uncertain whether he’ll be available. Listed as questionable against the Lakers, Gortat vowed to make every possible effort to play.
“If I can just stand and if I can move around. If I have pain but I’m still able to move, I will play,” Gortat said. “Today, I was just unable to move. I was laying on the bed, pretty much in pain the whole game.”
Gortat has appeared his 67 games this season, including 66 starts, the most he had played since 2010-11, when he played a combined 80 games for Orlando and Phoenix. He is averaging 12.8 points on 53.4 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds while averaging a career-high 32.9 minutes. After Nene went down with a sprained left knee, Gortat raised those averages to 15.8 points and 11.2 rebounds.
The Wizards learned Gortat wouldn’t be able to play less than an hour before tipoff. Coach Randy Wittman elected to start Kevin Seraphin, who didn’t appear in the previous two games because of a coach’s decision. Seraphin had four points and two blocked shots while starting in place of Gortat but spent much of the night in foul trouble. Washington also went small a lot with Portland playing its fifth game without all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
While his teammates were struggling to keep up with the hot-shooting Trail Blazers, Gortat was getting help from members of the Trail Blazers’ training staff. Portland provided a chiropractor to assist Gortat with his back injury.
“I really appreciate what they did for me,” said Gortat, who kept track of the game in the locker room. “I just watched a little bit on the TV. What can I say? Tough loss.”
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