The Commish Speaks on a Variety of NBA Business Issues. Thanks to SB and our Pal Dogburt at Welcometoloudcity.com.
Not sure why I'm doing it, maybe I am bored at work, but there is a huge interview with da Hammer on Gazeta.pl. I will translate some the most interesting parts for you guys, as there is more to The Hammer then you know ;)
On being recognized in Phoenix:
He met with the journalist in an appartment building where he lives. The elevator guy looks at Gortat for a while and goes:
-Don't you play for the Suns?
-... and what's your name?
- Grant Hill!
On double-doubles and January Hammertime
"I don't think it will end, I'm not a fluke. I just see in what kind of cage I was kept in Orlando. Now I'm in Phoenix, I'm 26 and in my prime, maybe it was meant to be - be the sub for the best center in the league for 3 years, get clobbered every day by the toughest guy on earth, and then when I still feel great physically be able to show my game.
Orlando was a cell or a good school?
There was a lot of players in the NBA who signed big contracts early in their career, were thrown into deep water and drowned. I experienced a lot of things in Orlando - there were games where I played 20-30 minutes deep in the play-offs, I played in the Finals. In the early seasons I have learned a great deal, I had a great coach who taught me the defensive mentality and on-court discipline. That shaped me as a player and helps me now, also, because I didn't play much I have huge hunger to play. I had a few great games in Phoenix but it is still not even close to being enough. I will murder and kill (wow, exact words) until I get bored (laughs). It's not gonna be soon, because I was sitting and watching for almost 4 years. It's payback time now...
Why such discipline? Why are you so stubborn?
After my parents I guess. They always told me it will be a problem down the road. But on the other hand - when I have a goal, I will do 100% to reach it, even of the road is long. My mom told me I will get bored by sports, but each day I walked 20 minutes each way for my soccer training. I'm a hardworker after my parents too. I like to be tortured in training, again and again. My coach in Cologne (Germany) taught me that. He always told me that hard work got him where his at. It's important that I started playing Basketball very late and I had this hunger all the time. Other players at 18 were already tired and bored, because it was their 5-6 year of training and I couldn't wait to practise, I often came to the facility 1,5 hours before the actual training. In Germany I was also given a whole lot of theoretical knowledge and I wanted to know more and more. After all these years donkey work is just a habit...
You have always dreamed of the NBA? When you were 20 did you think you will once play there?
No. Not at all. I remember watching the 2005 Finals at 4 at night and thinking - there is no chance I will play there. I always said it was my dream, but along the way I was never really sure it would happen. A year later I took part in a camp for tall guys where I handled players like Johan Petro, Mile Ilic, other guys in higher regard than me. That's when NBA scouts started talking about my physical abilities. It got me going, but I had my doubts when the Magic sent me back to Europe after another Summer League.
Is this streak (end of January) a new chapter of your career? How much is Nash helping?
Absolutely, a lot of people discovered that Marcin Gortat can impact the number of games his team wins. His not a star, but a player that has to be taken into account on offence and defence. Nash is at least 50% of Gortat. But not everyone playing with Steve earns double-doubles (there you go, finally a little head-butt for Lopez)... I think that unlike Lopez, without Steve I would get a few second chance points, some tip-ins, some garbage points. Still, without Nash I would be a completely different player on this team.I don't get many balls with my back to the basket in this offense because it slows us down and we want to run and pass as much as possible.
So PHX is the best place you could have gone to?
Absolutely. Before the transfer we talked with my agent about different options, he mentioned the Rockets a lot, who were asking about me even after I went to PHX. In the coming years they might achieve greater succes than us, because they have a much younger team and our vets - Nash, Hill, Carter - are moving towards the end of their careers. Sooner or later we might hit bottom and start rebuilding. But I am extremely happy to be here. Steve is here and we run a lot. I love it.
What happens when you start playing worse?
That's a major question. Bad games will come because it's part of the job, but the key is how you react to it, dig yourself out of the hole. The journalists will surely write that the truth about Gortat came out, that all in all he is mediocre at best, that he had a lucky streak. But it's like driving the car really. The fact that you had a collision doesn't mean you forgot how to drive.
And the future? 2-5-7 years from now?
I completely stopped thinking about this. I think one game at a time. Now, I want to improve my shot blocking, cause I slipped in that department lately. I want to remain shooting at a good percantage, rebound and add some more blocks. My agent is probably thinking about the new contract, but I don't.
An NBA transfer
The funny part is that until the final moment - nothing changes for you and the team. The coach gives you scouting report for the next game, eventhough he already knows that probably you will be playing for someone else. When they told me about the trade the day we played Dallas - I was ecstatic. I really dreamed about this, but I couldn't scream it out loud. I didn't really care that much for Championships. It's no fun when you sit on the bench and watch other players run the floor that you know are not better then you are. They drop 20 points and I sit and cheer for the guys on the floor. That sucked.
Otis Smith told me about the trade and thanked me for a mutually beneficial few years. I was so emotional... I only asked who is going the other way, hoping it was Lopez and that I would start right away and get all his minutes.
His new number
Of course I didn't want the 4! I asked about 13, if I could buy it from Steve. I told him I will buy it for 50.000 bucks and he told me to forget about it (laughs). Then I wanted 7, because it was Beckham's number in ManU and they told me it's hanging from the ceiling thanks to Kevin Johnson. Then I thought about 8 - oen of my mentors in Germany, Zoran Kukic wore that one, But Channing wouldn't trade. So I picked nr 4 in memory of Obradovic. Now I believe it was a bad choice... I will probably change it to 57 - the number I was drafted with - for next season. Nobody plays with a 57.
How was the new locker room?
Weird, cause I thought I knew who was who, who was the star, who was the mean guy... Also, one has to understand that I came here to take away someone's hard work and minutes. And I had to change my approach - I really wanted to bust out of that Orlando cage. I became buddies with Goran and Channing real fast. Now, I love the atmosphere, the guys.
After one of the games you started talking critically about Suns defence. Spoko about defence in Orlando, said you could help other players understand a few things. Wasn't that a little too early, a little out of line?
I don't think so. I wasn't talking about specific guys. After a while one of the guys from the coaching staff told me that it was a good thing somebody finally vocalized the team's problems, just told me that it's a shame it was me, cause I was knew and it probably won't sit well with some of the teammates. But I don't like beating around the bush. When I go to the locker room after a game we got destroyed by a bad team on our home court what am I supposed to say? Good effort but we lacked a little energy? Maybe some guys can talk like that. I can't. We were terrible and I said it straight up. When I play bad, I always say honestly that I got killed by the other guy.
Start in PHX and his biggest advantages
I didn't take advantage of my opportunity at first, I got a lot of minutes but I didn't play well. So I kind of took a step back, concentrated on my game and what I can do better. I think my biggest ascet is being athletic and my physical abilities. There is a lot of centers in the NBA who are as good as me at either speed, stamina, coordination or hops, but not neccessarily many with all these combined.
PnR with Nash
I play PnR pretty well because I started playing basketball quite late and I had a lot of holes in my technique. So that was one of the easiest plays if you were really consistent and focused. It started in Germany. It's 50/50 between the PG and the guy who sets the screen. The screen has to be very tough and the pass has to be well timed. But it takes two to tango. Screens are not easy as well. I have to block the othe teams guard and try to stop them by any means neccessary. And most of them play dirty - some hold my leg with their arms to stop me from rotating towards the basket. Some try to hit me in the jewels. Timing and finding a lane to the basket is more important than speed. We do it quite well with Nash but I am not even half way to being perfect at it.
That's new. I didn't play that much in Orlando so I am adjusting. But I try to do a lot of stretching before the game... And adrenaline is helping, I get gassed soemtimes but I always try to give 110%.
If you could play like the end of this month for a whole season you could be an All Star next year (typical Polish question - we always want more and more and more...)
It's way to early for that, I don't even think about it. Sure, I would love to play in the All Star Game, but well... maybe 2-3 years from now, when I am getting closer to the end of my contract to get some attention... :)
[sorry for spelling, and also, I didn't go word for word, so I might have freestyled a bit once or twice...]