Following the Phoenix Suns’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, Marcin Harasimowicz of Przeglad Sportowy caught up with Marcin Gortat for a second round of pointed tidbits following his comments from last month.
Adam Koscielak of Gothic Ginobili was kind enough to send us the translation of the interview, one that tells of Gortat again wondering aloud about Alvin Gentry’s coaching.
More troubling is the tone.
Asked why he was so good in the Portland game on Nov. 21 yet struggled against the Clippers on Saturday, Gortat shucked the blame away.
“It’s mostly because various players play different roles and have different playing time in every game,” Gortat said. “The team isn’t crystallized. It doesn’t have everyone knowing his role. Nobody’s really sure how many minutes he’ll spend on the court, whether he even gets a shot.”
Later in the interview, Gortat admits that his aggressiveness has faded but gives a reason outside of his control.
“Maybe my aggressiveness has faded, but you know why? Because in one game, I play well, and in the next, I don’t, while in the third one, I don’t play at all, and in the fourth, I’m suddenly getting a bunch of passes,” Gortat said. “There’s no consistency. I think that might be affecting me.”
The “next” game where Gortat struggles certainly seems like the valid cause for not getting regular minutes. And in the “fourth” game, admitting to receiving touches certainly seems like a good chance for Gortat to redeem himself. That would be assuming that any talented NBA center needs an offense tailor-made for him to score.
In an increasingly scary trend of interviews, it sounds like Gortat doesn’t think he’s getting chances to show his abilities. Whether “chances” means touches or playing time, he’s not happy.
“First of all, I believe I’m a good basketball player,” Gortat said. “I showed and confirmed that many times already. I don’t need to argue with anyone about it, or repeat it ad nauseam. I know my worth. I believe in myself, but at the same time, I’m waiting for a chance. I don’t give up, if I did, I wouldn’t be myself.”
When he came to Phoenix from Orlando, we thought Gortat’s chance to shine was an opportunity to be a starting center for an NBA team. Now, it’s a wonder what more he could ask for.
While his minutes have dropped since his initial comments and Jermaine O’Neal and Luis Scola have closed games in his place, Gortat did see crunch-time minutes on Sunday against Orlando. He scored 12 points to go with six rebounds in 32 minutes, which was twice the amount of time either Scola or O’Neal played.
The trio as a whole got belted by the Magic big men. Second-year pro Nikola Vucevic scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds while rookie Andrew Nicholson (you could see this one coming following his career game prior to the meeting with the Suns) scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four steals in 25 minutes.
It is doubtful the Magic ran many plays specifically to set Vucevic or Nicholson up for a score.
As Schwartz said a month ago, it’s refreshing to see athletes avoid cliches. But cliches often represent truth in that there are only so many ways to say a locker room is together, the team has the same goal of winning and everything is hunky-dory — even in desperate times.
Gortat isn’t saying much about fighting for his teammates; that was a sharp difference between his interview and Jared Dudley’s comments following the loss to the Magic.
In Schwartz’s postgame video of the Orlando loss, Dudley, like Gortat, mentions that rhythm — confidence even — is difficult to grasp when rotations change from game to game. One reporter points out that it’s hard for rotations to be set when most of the Suns are so inconsistent.
“Yes. That’s right,” Dudley responded. “Guys have to hold each other accountable. If you’re not producing … next guy up.” Dudley goes on to say Gentry’s job is a tough one.
The captain’s take on the recent struggles at least provides evidence that the locker room isn’t as fractured as the seven-game losing streak might suggest.
Gentry said after Sunday’s loss that he doesn’t worry about Sebastian Telfair’s effort level. Now it’s a wonder how many other players are in that same boat, and then, how many others will settle to fight for their own success.
Here’s the entire transcription, again, courtesy of Adam Koscielak.
Przeglad Sportowy: The Suns are in a tough spot, something that coach Alvin Gentry also talked about. You lost six games in a row.
Marcin Gortat: That’s true. 6 losses and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to break this streak in the next game. This is a tough moment, not only for the team, but also for myself, for my career. I’m going through tough moments. It’s situations like these where you have to show mental strength and think about what we can change. I need to train hard every day and hope for the best.
How would you explain the teams streaky play this season? For three quarters you were neck in neck with a top-notch team in the NBA, the Clippers, only to waste it in three or four minutes.
MG: Unfortunately, there are some “black holes” in our games that are hard to logically explain. There are moments in which it feels like somebody turned off the power. As if someone pulled the plug. We compete, we fight, we try, and then suddenly they go up a dozen points and we either mount a comeback, or it’s too late.
Coach Gentry admitted that he’s still looking for an optimal lineup, and he himself doesn’t quite know how to use certain players. Your team is really going through a lot of changes all the time. Is Gentry looking for a perfect balance?*
MG: Maybe, I can’t really say anything about that.
In some games you score a lot of points, for example 22 against the Trail Blazers and 18 against the Knicks, but you also have games like the one in Staples Center against the Clippers. Why?
MG: It’s mostly because various players play different roles and have different playing time in every game. The team isn’t crystallized. It doesn’t have everyone knowing his role. Nobody’s really sure how many minutes he’ll spend on the court, whether he even gets a shot. We’re still at the point of finding our strong suits.
How can you correct this?
MG: First and foremost – by practice. We can talk about how much (shots? playing time? t/n), and what we want in the locker room before and after games, but it isn’t working so far. Only hard work in practice will let us eliminate our mistakes and fix our play.
You mentioned that you are going through some hard times? How do you plan on breaking through this crisis?
MG: Talking to the people that are close to me, that helped me built my career, or were close to me when I was growing as a basketball player. I’m capable of showing a high level. I have no other choice, but to look for a place to me in the team and fight for what’s mine. It’s really hard this season, though. This is an important mental test for me. I need to stay strong and focus on basketball. I can’t be discouraged by things that happen in my team. It’s not easy. This is the first time I’m in a situation like this in my career. Physically, I feel well. Maybe my aggressiveness has faded, but you know why? Because in one game, I play well, and in the next, I don’t, while in the third one, I don’t play at all, and in the fourth, I’m suddenly getting a bunch of passes. There’s no consistency. I think that might be affecting me.
In the game against the Trail Blazers, you’ve shown that you can play a big role in the Suns offence.
MG: First of all, I believe I’m a good basketball player. I showed and confirmed that many times already. I don’t need to argue with anyone about it, or repeat it ad nauseam. I know my worth. I believe in myself, but at the same time, I’m waiting for a chance. I don’t give up, if I did, I wouldn’t be myself.
Broussard: Gentry’s job is safe
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Monday that Alvin Gentry’s job is safe.
“We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” Sarver told ESPN.
“It’s still early in the season,” he added. “We’re playing worse than our talent, and a lot of that has to do with confidence. It’s up to the coaches and players to start playing better and to get that swagger back and turn things around. Things can turn quickly in this league.”
That’s not surprising news considering the circumstances.
A midseason firing wouldn’t do much for a team that, even if all was going well, is clearly in a rebuilding mode. Plus, Gentry’s contract ends after this season, making it financially moot or even more expensive if they let him go, paid him off and then had to pay an interim coach.
If anything, Gentry has this season to earn his next contract.