At the EuroBasket qualifying tournament in August, few big men were more dominant than Poland’s Marcin Gortat.
He led the tournament in field-goal percentage. He played almost every minute. He had 29 points against Belgium. 23 against Bulgaria.
When playing for Poland, Gortat is the man. His teammates look to him almost every trip down the court, feeding him the ball near the hoop and out near the perimeter. Jumpers, post-ups, cuts off the pick and roll; Gortat shows off a versatile offensive repertoire when playing for his home country.
Then Gortat returns to Orlando, where his role is simple: rebound, defend and run the floor. Stuck backing up the league’s best center, few plays are called for Gortat. On offense, he’s little more than a pick-setter and boards-crasher.
When Gortat does try to showcase his offensive game with the [Orlando] Magic, he gets talked to by the coaching staff.
And that adjustment has not been easy for the 26-year-old big man. […]
The Orlando Magic, meanwhile, are not overly concerned about Gortat’s desire to play more offense. During the team’s 3 1/2- hour meeting last Monday, his teammates told him they wanted him to focus on his role of defending, rebounding and running the floor.
They weren’t interested in any offensive flash from Dwight Howard‘s backup.
This is an interesting problem, because Marcin Gortat is the only player for the Orlando Magic that has to deal with this type of issue.
In Poland, Gortat is the man.
In Orlando, Gortat is one of many.
For the rest of the Magic roster, each player has a defined role that doesn’t change dramatically even in international play. Granted, when Dwight Howard is playing for the USA men’s basketball team, his role is a little different. More so on offense than anything else, given that in the past he’s played alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and some of the other top players in the NBA. And FIBA basketball, when it comes to trends and patterns with offenses, is not entirely conducive to traditional big men like Howard. As such, Howard’s value comes mostly on defense.
For Gortat, his desire to be more involved on offense is understandable. It’s tough to alter roles on the fly and in the past several years, Gortat has grown accustomed to being the centerpiece (here is an example) offensively when he’s playing for the Polish national team. It explains why Gortat isn’t shy in talking about his desire to play more, whether it’s for the Magic or another team.
Gortat wants “the damn ball.”
Can Gortat post up? Yes.
Should Gortat receive more touches on the low block? No.
That’s not an indictment on Gortat’s skill, per se, but it speaks more to the amount of talent Orlando has at their disposal. When Gortat is playing on the second unit, he’s not the best option on offense. Likewise, if the Magic want to really have a low post presence when Howard is out of the game, they could tab Rashard Lewis to be that guy since head coach Stan Van Gundy is making a concerted effort to play him more at the small forward position to take advantage of those skills.
The lack of a low post option was an issue last year for the second unit, at times.
What does this all mean for Gortat this season?
Nothing. Gortat’s role won’t change and shouldn’t change.