When Marcin Gortat’s Poland team lost to Spain last month in the European basketball championships, it was a different experience than losing in the NBA Finals. Sure, the Euro loss was to a team led by Pau Gasol and it was on his home floor – sound familiar? – but the aftermath was much different.
“I learned a lot about being a leader and being in a different situation. After losing a really bad game, you’re the guy that has to step out there and talk with 30 guys from the media,” Gortat said. “It was a big challenge for me.”
Gortat scored 12 points in the loss, with his team feeding him the ball repeatedly in the post. While his role in Poland is far different from his role in Orlando, the experience allowed him to hone the parts of his game that go relatively unused in the NBA.
He worked on his post moves. He touched up his jump shot, sometimes from as far as 20 feet out. He focused on his perimeter skills, improving his dribbling ability and first step while facing the basket.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to help this team a little more now,” Gortat said. “I want to be able to score in many different ways.”
The Magic, already saddled with an abundance of shot-takers, don’t need Gortat for his offensive game, and he knows that.
“Rebound, play defense, block shots, run the break and be an energy player,” Gortat said.
While he’s in Orlando, those are Gortat’s responsibilities. But the reality is that Gortat doesn’t know if he’ll be in Orlando or some other NBA city by the end of the year.
“It’s kind of crazy to be starting with one team and then finishing up with a second team,” Gortat said. “But you know what, that’s just how it is. A lot of people already told me that I’m a ticking bomb right now. That’s just how it is. You have to be honest. If they have to trade me, I understand this totally, it’s just the way it is.”
Here are a few more questions about Europe with Gortat, who totaled 14 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks in a preseason win against Houston on Friday.
What do you think about guys like Brandon Jennings that jump to Europe instead of playing here in college?
Marcin Gortat: I think it’s a great idea. Because if this player is a big prospect, and I believe he is, then if he would go to college to the NBA he’ll never get the experiences from Europe. And thanks to those experiences in Europe, he can become a better basketball player later. He can learn from the mentality of European players and coaches. Later when he comes to the NBA he’ll see certain aspects of the game in different ways. I believe it could help him.
Is European basketball a better preparation for the NBA than college?
Marcin Gortat: It depends on what kind of player you are and what position you play. If you’re a big man I’d say it’s probably better for you to go Europe and work on your game. But if you’re a guard I think you stay in college because you’re going to learn more.
What are some of the nuances between Europe and NBA?
Marcin Gortat: The rules are different there. You can reach and do certain things in Europe that you can’t do here. You don’t have the same communication. There’s a lot of switching and different situations on the floor in Europe. They just execute the switch. Chris Cornell contributed to this post.
Month of Magic In the month leading up to the season, we’ll take a look at the Orlando Magic by featuring a different player, coach, or storyline.