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Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat has a burning desire to play better this year, to prove his doubters wrong and to help the Suns make the playoffs. He could not get that Utah game out of his head this summer, contributing to a loss in game 65 of 66 that killed the Suns playoff chances.
Marcin Gortat wants and needs to become a better player.
For the record, the 2011-12 season - Gortat's first as a starting center in the league - was a pretty good one on both ends of the court.
Gortat was 8th among all NBA big men (C and PF) last year in Win Shares, 10th in WS/48, 12th in defensive WS, 4th in offensive WS, 7th in field goal %, 8th in blocks, 9th in steals, 4th in total rebounds, 4th in defensive rebounds, 7th in defensive rebound %, 8th in offensive rebounds and 8th in free throw attempts.
Clearly, statistically, a top-10 big man in the entire NBA. Not just among centers, and not just among Western Conference players. All statistics above were based on big men listed as C, PF-C or C-PF on www.basketball-reference.com.
But Marcin Gortat is not satisfied and nor should he be. He wants to get better, and he knows he has to get better.
One thing fueling that fire is the egg he laid against Utah where he made only 1 of 8 field goals and did not draw a single foul while getting his shot blocked five times by the more-active Utah front line. Five times. Phoenix lost that game by 12 points but it felt like a lot more than that.
As the Suns' primary offensive weapon (the Suns other starters in that Utah game were Morris, Dudley and Brown, along with Nash), the team needed Gortat to have the game of his life. In a good way.
He stressed over that game all summer - what he did wrong, what he could have done better. But what he talked most about at practice yesterday with SB Nation Arizona's Kris Habbas was the team's fans.
"I feel sorry for the fans, I feel bad for them. They were supporting us from the first game to the last game. Being the guy who was leading the team most of the games in points and boards, and all of a sudden the main game is coming and you're failing.
"You know, it hurts.
"The only thing I can say is I'm sorry to the fans. I will try to do better. I'm just going to learn from it."
Marcin Gortat is a human being like the rest of us. He reads what is written about him and there was a lot of it over the summer.
"I read and heard a lot of things about me being a different player without Steve Nash. But right now, I'm staying away from the internet stuff. It's just too much. You can lose your mind over it."
With the advent of year-round sports coverage and a concerted effort by each outlet to keep content fresh all offseason, we have to generate stories and discussions. One of the easiest and most polarizing topics to cover was whether Gortat could score at all without the maestro spoon-feeding him passes toward the rim.
Gortat had something to say about that while making a great effort to give Nash the credit he's due. Take note here that Gortat was not bashing twotime in any way, shape or form.
"I‘m not taking anything away from Steve Nash, but at the end of the day there was a few other big men playing with him and they did not succeed."
Channing Frye. Hedo Turkoglu. Earl Barron. Robin Lopez. Markieff Morris. Hakim Warrick. All could have been the pick-and-roll finisher on this team just in the past couple of years since Amare Stoudemire left town. But none did. Marcin Gortat was the one who could set the pick, time his release, dive to the basket and finish the play.
"It's not like whatever he touches turns into gold. You need a second person who has some kind of skills, some kind of feel for the game. We were #1 in the league in passing and finishing.
"I would say there was a little bit of credit for me too. He's a great point guard, I'm not taking anything away from him."
Again I will say that Gortat was not just showing bravado, pumping his chest. He was just trying to emphasize that it's called a two-man game for a reason and I have no doubt that Steve Nash would second that notion.
Gortat may not be the Hammer. He may not finish with devastating dunks like Amare did. But he found a way to finish the plays he was given to finish.
Does that mean he expects to be the main guy again this season? No. He knows his bread and butter is rebounding and that he's the guy the team needs if they want to stay competitive on the glass.
"Rebounding is gonna be always my issue," he said. "If someone is going to get rebounds, it's going to be me."
Ah yes, playoffs. That's where Gortat really wants to go. With Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and a shift to the 'corner' offense, Gortat won't be the Suns' main offensive weapon this year. But he doesn't care about that. All he wants is to win.
"I could get 1 and 10 or 6 and 2, that's okay if we go to playoffs."
His prognosis for the season?
"I would say we gonna be good. We just gotta get to know each other better. What I am dreaming about is surprising a lot of people, who are cursing us and (saying we are bad).
"I really want to win the games and see their faces later."
Wouldn't that be something if the Suns could win games without Steve Nash leading the way?
Will Gortat be better or worse than 2011-12?
He will be better this year! (186 votes)
He will regress without Nash spoon-feeding him (54 votes)
240 total votes