What Has Happened to Marcin Gortat?

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 02: Marcin Gortat of Cologne looks dejected after losing the Euroleague game between Rhein Energie Cologne and Efes Pilsen Istanbul at the Philipshalle on November 2, 2006 in Dusseldorf, Germany.  (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Marcin Gortat has shown his skills overseas. He now appears frustrated he is not getting his chance with the Magic. But is it really affecting his play?
Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images/PicApp 

Very few mysteries have puzzled Magic fans more than the sudden fall off in play from Marcin Gortat. The usually energetic backup center has always brought tons of energy and enthusiasm to his position and quickly became a fan favorite.

Who doesn’t love the Polish Hammer/Machine? What other player evinces so much love for doing so little?

Orlando is probably asking that question more and more as Gortat struggles more and more. And the more he struggles, the more the Magic have to ask themselves: Was it worth it matching the the lucrative offer sheet he signed with Dallas that still has somewhere in the neighborhood of $28 million and four years remaining?

Gortat’s stats have never impressed. And despite our impressions of how Gortat is playing, he is actually averaging a career-high 4.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and his per 36 minute numbers are also in line with last year. His PER and eFG% are also up from last year, according to Basketball-Reference.

So why do we feel like Gortat is underperforming? Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post asked the question to his readers and the split was pretty amazing. It was nearly a split between people who think Gortat is playing fine and those that are not. And 20 percent are not sure.

It is very clear perception might be different than reality.

What created this perception at this juncture is Gortat’s poor play the last two games when Gortat got his opportunity to start in Howard’s place. In the two games Howard missed over the weekend we saw two very different Marcin Gortats.

Friday night in Detroit, Gortat scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 32 minutes, shooting 7 for 9 in his first start of the year. The following evening, he shot only one for four and scored two points to go with 10 rebounds before fouling out in 35 minutes and getting torched by Andrew Bogut. The following game on Monday, Gortat scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes.

While Friday’s win in Detroit saw Gortat at his best, the past two games have been extremely discouraging. Even more discouraging is the usually energetic Gortat has seemingly lacked energy and has let mistakes compound and affect the rest of his game. Watch Gortat in Saturday and Monday’s games. His shoulders seem slumped and one bad play followed another. It was brutal watching Gortat on Saturday night.

Monday was not much better. Back to his role as Dwight Howard’s backup, with two points and three rebounds in nine minutes. What defined his night, so to speak, was when he got his lone block. It was early in the fourth quarter when Gortat got his lone block. Howard had already checked in at the scorer’s table as the officials gave a timeout following the block.

Gortat knew he was coming out and his shoulders slumped again as he walked off the court, this time after a positive play.

 

Gortat’s frustration over his playing time has been very well documented. He believes that he should get the opportunity to showcase more of his skills. Offensively, we know he is capable of performing on the offensive end. He was the leader in scoring for the Polish national team and showed some more touch around the basket.

 

So far, he has not shown that in Orlando. And really he has not had the opportunity for the Magic. Even when Howard was not playing, Gortat has not really been able to showcase his offensive skills.

For whatever reason, Gortat just is not fitting well with whatever it is Stan Van Gundy wants to do with him. And his frustration is starting to boil over.

Gortat is not playing any worse than he has been throughout his career. But something about his play is not feeling right.

Gortat’s energy plays have been there. He has had more than a few times where he dove on the floor for loose balls and he even appears to have decent chemistry with Brandon Bass.

So what is wrong with Marcin Gortat? It may just be attitude and body language. Or even just the time of year. On any other day, this issue might be different.

Chalk it up as a victory of perception over reality with Gortat.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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