You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

As Wizards ride their starters, they need Gortat to be the Polish Machine


Marcin Gortat shuffled forward, used his body as a shield and as too many eyes followed his teammate, he broke free to the rim. Another dunk for the man who calls himself the "Polish Hammer."

A play like this - the effective two-man, pick-and-roll game between point guard John Wall and Gortat - highlighted the Washington Wizards' half-court offense during the team's 112-105 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Verizon Center.

Wall spent Friday night in a charitable mood, doling out a season-high 18 assists. Gortat benefited, hitting all nine attempts from the floor, including seven shots directly at the rim that were gift-wrapped by Wall. Gortat finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season.

Although seven assists from Wall made life easier for him, Gortat's own stamina has eased the Wizards' frontcourt burden.

Wizards starters have logged 581 minutes this season, second most of any five-man unit in the NBA. Gortat, the oldest player in the Wizards' locker room, averages 35.8 minutes per game, which ranks behind only New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis among centers.

The absence of recovering backup Ian Mahinmi has cast a heavier load on to Gortat. Even so, when faced with the prospect of playing less or taking a break, Gortat, the 32-year-old from Poland, draws on another of his nicknames to remind his coach and teammates how durable he can be.

"With March, he tells me all the time that he's the Polish Machine, and I'm starting to believe that," coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy is just relentless. He just keeps coming at you and he never complains - too much. But I think he just battles and I like that about him."

It's enough for Gortat to christen himself with another moniker, according to Wizards rookie Sheldon McClellan, whose locker is next to Gortat's.

Reserve center "Jason [Smith] went to go get him and he said, 'I'm good!' He said 'I'm a bunny!' or something like that. Energizer Bunny," McClellan recalled after Friday's game. "He's very active and he wants to play almost the whole game."

As Gortat stays on the floor, he finds the most effective way to help Washington.

Last season, he attempted 136 shots between 10 and 14 feet from the basket. This year he has primarily performed as a center who runs to the rim for his offense. As one of the league's premier screen-setters, Gortat will do most of his dirty work while angling his body to get a defender away from Wall. Then, as the defense is forced to make a choice, Gortat rolls into the paint, heads up and hands ready to receive a pass from Wall.

This season, Gortat has scaled back on midrange looks (only 35 attempts from 10 to 14 feet) while getting bunny shots inside the restricted area. Gortat has already taken 190 shots within five feet; 76 of his 180 field goals have been assisted by Wall.

After the win over Minnesota, a reporter informed Wall about Gortat's perfect night from the field. Wall asked to hear the stat again - nine for nine - then without missing a beat, lobbed a question of his own.

"Did he shoot any shots outside the paint?" Wall said, enticing laughter. "Even if they were assists or not, that's what we try to play March. He did a great job setting screens for us, rolling to the basket. . . . When he's dunking the ball and finishing around the paint, he makes us a better team. We try to tell him to stay away from free throw line jump shots."

Gortat is averaging 11.7 points per game, on 58.3 percent shooting, and 11.9 rebounds, the latter two on pace for career highs. According to basketball-reference.com, Gortat has 16 dunks, which is on pace to eclipse last year's total of 48. That's good work for a hammer, a machine or even a bunny.

"I don't call him the Polish Machine unless he's dunking like he was" on Friday, Wall said. "So he got the nickname back."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Texas bounces back from season-opening loss with doubleheader sweep
Texas bounces back from season-opening loss with doubleheader sweep

After opening its season with a loss, Texas stuck around the winner’s circle on Saturday. The Longhorns used two strong starts on the mound and a diverse offense in 5-4 and 6-1 wins over Rice on Saturday. With the two triumphs at UFCU Disch-Falk Field — the first of which was a seven-inning game — Texas improved to 2-1 this spring...
Winning streak stopped as Texas Stars fall to Chicago Wolves

The Texas Stars couldn’t extend their winning streak to five games as they fell 4-1 to the Chicago Wolves at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Saturday night. A day after taking a narrow win in overtime against the Wolves, the Stars were only able to get one goal. Pheonix Copley had a great night for the Wolves, saving 27 out of 28 shots in net...
Bohls: A truly lost season for Smart, Longhorns
Bohls: A truly lost season for Smart, Longhorns

Shaka Smart is all about accountability. And he needs to practice what he’s forever preaching. “The only way that changes is to be better,” Smart said. “Be solid on defense, take care of the ball and make your free throws down the stretch. We’ve been in a lot of close games, and it still comes down to grabbing the bull...
Westlake’s Luther breaks Olympian’s record at state swim meet
Westlake’s Luther breaks Olympian’s record at state swim meet

Westlake High swimmer Dakota Luther broke a record held by an Olympic gold medalist on Saturday. She also won her third straight gold medal in the 200 freestyle. But don’t expect her to get all sentimental about it. “I’m glad the time was faster,” the junior said of her finish in the 200. “It doesn’t feel any different...
Kansas State 64, Texas 61: Despite loss, Mo Isom happy to be hustling at all
Kansas State 64, Texas 61: Despite loss, Mo Isom happy to be hustling at all

Shuffling through the exits while muttering in frustration, Texas fans could easily forget about the little things. Like walking itself. That’s really all Mareik “Mo” Isom cared about last fall. A simple arthroscopic procedure on his left ankle was supposed to go off without a hitch. But Isom developed a nasty infection, one that...
More Stories