Oct 26, 2013, 6:30 PM EST
WASHINGTON – Sometimes trades instinctively bring out the head scratcher in all of us. The Wizards acquiring center Marcin Gortat isn’t one of those times.
Washington hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008. Unlike teams that bailed on the upcoming season to ensure a lottery finish, the Wizards have shaped their John Wall-led roster with the goal of a postseason return.
Emeka Okafor‘s herniated disk in his neck threatened to derail those plans.
Fearing the defensive presence might return later than sooner, the playoff-pushing organization addressed the matter sooner than later.
Following Saturday’s practice, management, coaches and players discussed the necessary move, which included not just a swap of expiring contracts, but the Wizards shipping a protected 2014 first round pick.
Wizards team President Ernie Grunfeld: “Obviously if Emeka didn’t have the [injury], probably wouldn’t have been as imperative for us to get another big man in there. We don’t know what his status will be. Obviously, Emeka was very frustrated by his situation and there is really no timeframe for him.”
Wall: “It’s tough to see a guy like Mek go that was a great professional for us and what he did for our team, especially helping me in learning things, but it was kind of tough not knowing if he would play this year.”
Head coach Randy Wittman: “We’re not just trading a player for a player, with Mek not being on the floor yet this year. That’s the beauty about the situation. We had no idea when, or if, Emek, was going to be back. So, this gives us a free body that we didn’t have.”
Not just a free body, but a big body, a 6-foot-11, 240-pounder efficient in the pick-and-roll and better offensively than the man he replaces. Nor Okafor’s equal on defense, but Gortat is a big body willing to bang and defend those in the middle so power forward Nene and his perennial aching body doesn’t have to.
“Now we have a true center. Look at my face,” said the grinning Brazilian big man, who has not been shy about stating his positional preference. “[Gortat] is going to help us a lot. He’s a veteran … high IQ big man. He knows how to play. We feel sad for Emeka, he was a great teammate, but we need the position. [The organization] did an amazing job. They surprised me.”
Considering the team’s playoffs-or-bust mentality, considering the young frontcourt options — namely Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely — provided no assurance they could step up into larger roles, nobody should be surprised. Considering the trade laid out on a Venn diagram would show a tiny not-so-sweet spot, nobody should be scratching their head.
The first round pick is protected through the 12th selection. If the Wizards make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the pick heads to Phoenix without complaint. If the Wizards miss the playoffs, they keep the pick as long as they don’t end up with the 13th or 14th selection. Barring bad luck with ping-pong balls, that’s a safe bet considering there are more strong teams than available postseason berths out West.
The Wizards will enter next offseason with a hole at center — and potentially around $16 million in cap space now that they have reportedly declined options on Vesely and Chris Singleton. Make the playoffs and the Wizards become more attractive to high-end free agents as a rising franchise headlined by the electric backcourt combo of Wall and Bradley Beal. Miss the playoffs and the Wizards have both a first round selection and cap space to address needs.
“That could become available to us if that’s a direction we want to go,” Grunfeld said of potentially adding a max contract free agent. “But we’ll worry about that next summer.”
They could also re-sign Gortat, who averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last season for Phoenix in what some considered a down effort. If the “Polish Machine” helps makes the Wizards a better team — he should offensively — and the money works out, why not.
As for guards Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee, Grunfeld will only worry about the other ex-Suns acquired in the deal for another day or so. Washington must trim three players by Monday to reach the league-maximum of 15. Grunfeld said he hasn’t made a final decision, but nobody is expecting that trio to stay with the Wizards.
The idea of making the playoffs this season, that notion has staying power. Without making the trade, maybe not.
“It hasn’t changed any,” Wittman said of the team’s postseason goals. “We talked about that. This wouldn’t make it change any. We still expect to fight for a spot in May. That’s our objective here.”
Dec 13, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
By Brett Pollakoff NEW YORK – It was only a week ago that the Nets were a sinking ship on the verge of capsizing completely, following consecutive losses at home where the team didn’t even seem capable of competing much less staying close enough to win for anywhere near the requisite 48 minutes. Jason Kidd may…
Dec 13, 2013, 2:50 AM EST
Our quick look around the association on a busy Thursday night, or what you missed while worrying about what could happen to Santa’s home due to global warming… LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. I’ve been saying he is the best power forward in the game all season (yes, better than Kevin Love) and he showed…
Dec 13, 2013, 12:12 AM EST
There was a time when “Deron Williams or Chris Paul?” was a legitimate question worth debating. Not for the past few years however — D-Will has hobbled around with injuries while CP3 has assumed the title of best point guard in the game (with reason). But for a night, the debate could be on again.…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:46 PM EST
NEW YORK – Things were going almost perfectly for the Nets by the time the team suffered its latest injury blow, a sprained ankle to Brook Lopez that prematurely ended his night. Lopez returned to the game briefly after coming out to get the ankle looked at with four minutes or so remaining in the…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:41 PM EST
NEW YORK – Deron Williams began the night by falling to the floor after being victimized by a crossover from Chris Paul. The fact that he stepped on the foot of teammate Brook Lopez was what ultimately caused him to crumble, but Paul’s action at least sent Williams sliding in that direction. In the second…
Dec 12, 2013, 8:30 PM EST
After trying to play through it for a month and it not really working, Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal is going to have surgery to repair the torn ligaments on the outside of his right wrist, the team announced Thursday. 1 of 2) @jermaineoneal will undergo arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to address a torn ligament in his…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:45 PM EST
We don’t need to tell you the Pacers are doing just fine without Danny Granger — they have the best record in the NBA (19-3) and knocked off the Miami Heat this week. Yet with Granger, they either will improve or they will have a potential trade piece to shop around at the deadline (or…
Dec 12, 2013, 4:43 PM EST
The Lakers, already without Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar due to injuries, will now be without Steve Blake until likely the start of February at least. Blake has a torn ulnar ligament in his right elbow at least six weeks, the Lakers announced. Speaking with the media, Blake said if he were a baseball player…
Dec 12, 2013, 3:25 PM EST
Glen Davis, even down to the lowest weight of his career, is big. After games, he’s big and sweaty. So, FOX Sports Florida’s Dante Marchitelli faced quite the challenge of staying focused during this, literally, touching interview. That man deserves a raise! Marchitelli, not Davis. Davis is paid just fine, and at least it’s his…
Dec 12, 2013, 3:05 PM EST
The Nets and Knicks have been the NBA’s two most underwhelming teams this season, but some statistical models predicted New York would slip. Few, if any, expected Brooklyn to struggle like this. From afar, I recognize Brooklyn’s troubles, but like most, I’m mostly numb to them. That’s certainly not the case for Kevin Garnett certainly,…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:33 PM EST
Rajon Rondo’s high school coach said Carmelo Anthony was recruiting Rondo, a 2015 free agent, to New York. As Kurt wrote, those types of conversations happen all the time. Of course, nobody publicly admits to them while they’re ongoing (except Chandler Parsons, who bragged about recruiting Dwight Howard to the Rockets). Anthony, via Ian Begley…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:32 PM EST
The Knicks need help on offense — a shot creator besides Carmelo Anthony — and they are looking at another point guard to get it. Multiple reports say the Knicks are now talking with the Toronto Raptors about getting Kyle Lowry, who became available when the Raptors picked up Greivis Vasquez in the Rudy Gay…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
Tom Thibodeau is represented by Creative Artists Agency. We have to start there. CAA and the Knicks enjoy an extremely harmonious relationship. The Knicks actually made Mike Woodson fire his agent and retain CAA, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher/Report. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Once Woodson switches his representation to CAA, the agency will control…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
It’s your game fans. The NBA All-Star Game is an exhibition filled with the players you vote to see. Whether those players deserve the honor based on their performance the first half of the season or not. Sometimes the most deserving guys don’t make the cut while guys hobbling through the season do. Which brings…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
We present this to you with very little commentary on our part. Jim Brown is an NFL legend and an outspoken man about the African American community and how it fits in with overall American society. Brown was on the Arsenio Hall Show on Tuesday night and was asked to comment about Kobe Bryant’s return…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:35 PM EST
A lot of players have friends or family in the Los Angeles area (a shocking number live there in the off-season), so when they come to play the Lakers or Clippers they are looking to buy a few extra tickets to get those people in the door. There is always a scramble. Rudy Gay is…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:36 AM EST
It’s not that Brandon Jennings can’t play defense. He can. If you remember Jennings from the first couple seasons he was a solid defender on the perimeter. But that has changed over the years — he doesn’t seem to care about that end of the floor now, save for gambling for steals. He shows flashes,…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:56 AM EST
Zach Randolph has had his fair share of off-the-court issues over the years, but this is also a guy who gives back. He won the NBA’s Community Assist award for November for example: “As a part of the NBA’s Season of Giving, Randolph distributed 900 Thanksgiving food baskets at Booker T. Washington High School and…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:18 AM EST
The Knicks got an important victory on Wednesday over an undermanned Bulls team, because despite the fact that New York blew a 23-point lead before hanging on to win over the final few possessions, it relieved some of the pressure on head coach Mike Woodson. New York has been without key players due to injury…
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