A discussion on Marcin Gortat’s comments


Michael Schwartz: So Kevin, Marcin Gortat made some inflammatory comments about his role with the Suns and his future that were translated into English on Monday. Should we take what he says at face value?

Kevin Zimmerman: I think you can take it for 80 percent of face value. Translations and all that could make it come across as a little bit more harsh than it might have been, but there’s no doubt he’s frustrated with the offense. Being one of the more outspoken Suns players in the most recent years, hearing that come from him is not surprising, and it’s hard to say that the quote about not being an option for Gentry is any misrepresentation.

Now, I’m guessing Gortat didn’t mean any harm, but there’s no doubt that saying those things isn’t going to sit well with his teammates or his head coach. That’s how he feels and it’s his personality to say things like that, but we welcome you to the beginning of some #SunsDrama.

MS: There is a lot of truth to all of this and none of it is good for a team trying to find that cohesiveness, but a few caveats. First off, this is Gortat. Gentry brushed it off by relying on his favorite cliche: “It is what it is.” To some degree, this is Gortat being Gortat. I also feel like some of the severity of it was definitely lost in translation. That being said, Marcin clearly is not pleased with his role on this team over the past few games. He’s not a focal point in a pick-and-roll system, and the Suns rightly would rather post Scola than him.

Do you think he has a point? Should he be getting more touches or should he be happy to be the top defensive big man who blocks shots and grabs a ton of rebounds? Do you think the Suns should be gearing more of their offensive game plan around him?

KZ: I think to answer this question you’ve got to ask yourself if he’s even a second option, let alone a first option. In my opinion, he’s being utilized just fine as a third or fourth option. There are very few big men worthy of being considered one-on-one post scorers (Andrew Bynum might be it, and Dwight Howard will do just fine on the Lakers in the pick-and-roll game alone) so that’s out the window.

Dulberg pointed out that the number of pick-and-rolls per possession hasn’t dropped off too much from last year. And from a pure playmaking standpoint, Gortat is only a scorer in those situations. Meanwhile, Dragic isn’t the pick-and-roll point guard Nash is, and I’d venture to say he’s more apt to score on those plays than pass (that will give Gortat less touches there).

Last year, Gortat scored 15 a game on a team with very little offense other than the Nash-Gortat pick-and-roll opening it up for others. Now, Phoenix has other playmakers. Simple as that. I’ve very much liked his role thus far and thought that him accepting that would make the team more dangerous defensively and in the rebounding department. Apparently, Gortat doesn’t see it that way.

So now there appears to be a rift in the locker room. From a business standpoint, do you think it’s a good idea to shop him around midseason and see what the market is like?

MS: Right, I was surprised to see only a slightly smaller amount of possessions are ending with a pick-and-roll roll man or ball handler shooting, but keep in mind Synergy only tracks the end result of plays. By the eye test it certainly seems like they aren’t running nearly as many pick-and-rolls overall.

As to your question, I always feel it’s smart to see what you can get for a player, but not to turn it into a Justin Upton scenario whereby you shop him so many times that it makes it seem like you no longer believe in him. I was in favor of shopping Amare to see what was out there, I was in favor of shopping Nash and I definitely will be in favor of shopping Gortat. I laid out my thoughts on Gortat’s situation earlier this season, but to summarize it does not make sense to sign Gortat to a fat extension in two years considering where this team is in the rebuilding process.

If you can turn his below-market contract into some combination of young players and picks, you have to do it. If he’s unhappy with his role, that’s even more true. A player of Gortat’s ability at his salary is incredibly valuable in today’s NBA, and if you wait until the summer then Scola could be included as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean trade him for sure, but see if you can get more value than what he will provide when factoring in the fact that he wants a $60 million extension to pay for downside of his career years that the Suns would be wise not to overpay for.

Now if the Suns do shop Gortat, what would like to see them get in return?

KZ: Joe Kaiser from ESPN Insider must have seen this coming as last week he wrote of five potential trades for Gortat. Two of them are to the Celtics and Thunder, who I doubt would take a risk on a guy like Gortat for a myriad of reasons. Kaiser also has a trade to the Bucks for Tobias Harris, John Henson and Drew Gooden, which is nice aside from the fact Kendall Marshall is thrown in there.

I think Phoenix should avoid giving up any of its young guys while acquiring young players and/or assets. Kaiser has a trade of Gortat to the Trail Blazers for Meyers Leonard (a young prospect), J.J. Hickson (still a guy with promise), and a first-round draft pick with no lottery protection. Freeing cash, getting young players — big men especially — and avoiding anyone taking any of Phoenix’s projects are three obvious things of need.

Getting back to Gortat’s comments, though. What do you think about them? Do you enjoy a player speaking his mind (we rarely get that these days), or do you think this case is going to cause problems in the locker room?

MS: I’m in agreement there. If you can get something like that Portland deal with a lottery pick, a young player and an unprotected pick, you have to do it. Also keep in mind that the Suns are about $6.5 million under the cap so they can provide immediate cap relief for another organization by taking on that additional amount in salary. Regardless of what they do with Gortat, it would behoove the Suns to pick up an asset by taking on an expiring contract from a team that needs to cut salary immediately or possibly becoming a facilitator in a three-team trade at the deadline.

Gortat really is a reporter’s dream. I almost wanted to ask him to take some of the comments back when he thoroughly ripped his new teammates a couple weeks after joining the team after a tough loss against Philly back in late 2010. It’s jarring to hear such candidness in today’s politically correct world in which some foreign players pretend not to speak English after a devastating loss, but Gortat is who he is every second of the day, and he has a bad habit of getting brutally honest after crushing defeats.

I love it. I wish more players wouldn’t hide behind cliches of needing to take things one day at a time, follow the process, and go 110 percent. I wish more players would be more like Gortat and say what they’re thinking. Granted, it was kind of stupid to say this much. It will only serve to tear down the bonds in the locker room and make people wonder where his head is at after the next tough defeat. It comes across as thoroughly selfish, like he’s only playing for himself and wondering if this will impact his next contract, which is exactly what players on losing teams often think about.

All that stuff is really bad, but I would rather hear a player outright say it then to lie about buying into the team and just needing time while their body language on the floor tells another story (cough, Vince Carter).

Now tell me Zim, how do you feel Gentry handled the situation both in his comments and his usage of Gortat thus far?

KZ: Although I don’t agree with Gortat coming out this way, it’s more to do with how silly I believe it is that he thinks he deserves to be the focal point of the offense rather than the complaint itself being aired out. In the same light, the “we would love to throw him the ball and have him post up for us but that hasn’t been one of his strengths, really,” Gentry quote from Dave Dulberg’s piece was brutally honest and quickly affirmed Gentry’s stance. As a whole, I’ll take this over the awkwardness that we saw in the whole Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy talk behind one another’s back in Orlando last year.

And as far as the situation is on the court, I think it’s been fine. Getting Gortat nine shots per game this year is plenty for a traditional big man these days, and this early in the season I find it hard to criticize Gentry. Overall, it’s especially bad for people to think the offensive distribution is a dichotomous decision as simple as choosing Dragic and Beasley over Gortat.

MS: Yes, we can all agree this is much better than the Howard-Van Gundy situation. At least you can’t accuse Gortat of being two-faced like Superman. However, for the Suns to enjoy an overachieving season they need everybody to focus purely on playing team basketball rather than on whether a decrease in touches will impact a contract in a few years. Although I like that this issue is out in the open rather than being something people just speculate about, it’s one more hurdle Gentry and the Suns will need to fight through as they work to get this team back on the winning track.