Marcin Gortat (MAR-chin GORE-tot) has burgeoned into a very solid, if not spectacular, NBA player. After posting impressive numbers of 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season, he comes into this season as the Suns' most proven commodity. His average of a double double put him in an exclusive club with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum as the only centers in the league to accomplish the feat.
Yet questions and criticisms abound. Can he score as effectively and efficiently without Nash? Can he withstand the rigors of an 82 game season? Can he shed his tissue soft label stemming from enervated episodes of
gently laying the ball in attacking the basket?
Gortat's mission to quash the critics and silence the pundits begins now. To be frank, I don't think that Gortat even lends credibility to many of these aspersions by acknowledging them. What I do think is that as a byproduct of the high level of play I expect out of Gortat this season that many of these issues will be resolved indirectly.
Next isn't starting now for Marcin. He's already been at the forefront of ushering in the new era for some time now. Media Day gave him an opportunity to vocalize what makes the hammer swing.
Another question coming into the season is how the dynamic between Gortat and new power forward Luis Scola will unfurl. The agglutination of these two players may be pivotal to the team's success. Gortat addressed this issue on Media Day.
"I'm a really big fan of Scola," said Gortat. "Back in the day I was watching him in Europe. When I was playing in Germany he was playing in Spain. I really thought back in Europe he was one of the best big men."
"He's a great passer. He can read the game very well. He's very smart," Gortat continued. "It's going to be a pretty good mix."
I think this is a fairly balanced and accurate analysis. Scola seems like the type of teammate that can assimilate into a new system and adapt to what is requested from him expeditously. I've been a huge
assailant proponent of the Scola waiver claim from day one. Given the recent unfortunate circumstances I believe that the tandem of the Polish Hammer and the Ice Cream Man will need to bring it this season.
Of course there was the compulsory question about life without Steve Nash and what changes Gortat might need to make to adjust to an existence deprived of his majesty (because Gortat was completely dependent on Nash, right?).
"I'm not going to change my game at all," Gortat responded to questions about how his role would be different this season. "I'm going to try to prove that I'm a better post-up player this year than I was last year. I believe that 20 games in the offseason with the national team helped me."
That's what we want to hear Marcin. Don't change a thing (except for sprinkling in a few more savage dunks). Suns fans (generally) understand what you bring and diligence in improving that contribution is all we ask.
Gortat responded to queries about the potential of the defense by stating that the team has younger guys, hustlers and a full training camp to improve the defense.
You heard it from Gortat first. The Suns are the new hustlers of the NBA.
Gortat feels he is in great shape, but that he basically didn't get any rest this summer. He thinks he may hit a wall after about 30-40 games. He better run right through that wall. There was speculation last year that Gortat's declining production in the second half of the season was a result of lassitude. A similar trend this season could exacerbate the ire he draws from purple and orange faithful.
The best answer of the interview came when Gortat replied to a question asking what he learned from being the go to guy for Poland with a very terse yet profound response of "What I learned was that you've got to make a basket."
Has he been listening to Eddie Johnson?
Gortat echoed the sentiment that the Suns will play run and gun basketball with little change from previous years. He also said that hopefully Goran Dragic will be the Suns' new Steve Nash. Gortat even pronounced Goran Dragic's name correctly (GORE-on DROG-ich) (no small feat considering how often it's stated incorrectly - just think Dragon).
Gortat seemed almost as sanguine about the possibilities of the upcoming season as I am. I think he acquitted himself admirably.
Take a look at the live footage we shot of Gortat from media day below. The sound is faint for the first 20 seconds, but then becomes perfectly audible. Alex sneaks in a question about the defensive scheme at the end of the video.