Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post
Orlando Pinstriped Post presents coverage of Orlando Magic Media Day.
Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat came to media day with a new mohawk, new custom wristbands, and a new attitude. Playing for the Polish national team in EuroBasket qualifying this summer seems to have emboldened Gortat, who said his qualifying experience "will give me a lot of confidence ... [because] I was able to do something in a game for the first time after [a] long time."
Indeed, Gortat is only a role-player with the Magic, as he backs up franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard, but he described himself "a leader" of the Polish national team. "I was able to touch the ball a lot of times," he said of his summer of EuroBasket qualifying, "and I had to play with my back to the basket, and play a little bit on the outside." These duties contrast sharply with his in Orlando. When I asked him to define his role here, he said, "My role is clear. I'm the rebounder, shot-blocker, defender, and hustle guy," later adding that he's "the only seven-feet white guy in the history of [the] NBA" to take charges; Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut might take exception to that claim.
"From time to time it's frustrating," Gortat continued, "because you want to be able to do something on offense also, but I know we all make certain sacrifices so we can be able to win the championship."
Those comments weren't the only ones in which he expressed frustration about his lack of offensive involvement. In response to a standard question about what he added to his game over the summer--each player hears about three variations of this question at media day, it seems--Gortat said:
"It's hard to say about adding something if your role is stil the same. It's not easy to come after three months or four months of summer and just try to show something new if you're still not getting [the] ball, if you're still not one of the options in the offense. It's not that I'm complaining right now; it's just I don't think there's many people who are going to se my improvement in the period of time when I am playing."
But one way Gortat's role could expand this season is if he seems more time at power forward, in a tall lineup with Howard at center; he only logged 59 minutes at that position last year. "That's one of the options," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
One reporter asked Gortat if he's surprised he's still a member of the Magic. "I'm not surprised," he responded, "because I know the team was built to win the championship and as long [as] we [are] gonna be contenders I am going to be with this team."
While these comments sound serious, I'd like to underline that Gortat kept the session light; he's quite easy to talk to, and he did not come across at all as upset. In fact, the media had more laughs around him than around any other player with whom I interacted. He referred to Adonal Foyle, the Magic's new Director of Player Development and a teammate of his since 2007, as his "psychiatrist," which elicited several chuckles. And when asked about how this morning's team meeting went, he said, "I just remember it was cold."
Gortat passionately described Foyle as the third-most important figure in his growth as an NBA player, behind strength-and-conditioning coach Joe Rogowski and assistant coach Brendan Malone. Further, Gortat said he frequently begged Foyle, via text message, to find a way to stay with the organization after his retirement. "I'm just so glad he stayed," he said, expressing that relief by straightening his back and heaving a sigh.