Marcin Gortat shared in the postgame disappointment Thursday night after the Wizards season came to a close thanks to the Indiana Pacers. Whether the pending free agent center will be part of Washington's roster is one of the main questions he and the franchise face this off-season.
Following the season-ending 93-80 defeat, Gortat peppered his responses with constant mentions of next year. For example, on what the younger players - presumably John Wall and Bradley Beal - learned through this playoff run into the second round.
"Now they know it’s totally different basketball than the regular season,"Gortat said. "Hopefully they’re going to use this as experience for next year. I’m 100 percent sure they’re smart enough to understand they have to work in the offseason. Next year we’ll be a much better team."
So, what about next season? How much has Gortat thought about his NBA playing future?
"I didn’t think about that. Matter of fact I have a meeting right now with my agent. I don’t know. I would love to be here. I would love to be back here on this team," said Gortat shortly after leading the Wizards in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points.
He continued. "There are a few different things I’m going to look at and definitely one the biggest things for me is a point guard. Obviously John is a tremendous talent. He’s definitely going to get better next year. That’s going to be one thing I’m going to look at."
Wall led the NBA in total assists this season and formed a quality pick-and-roll combination with Gortat, who averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 81 regular season games. He dominated the Pacers in Game 5 with 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Along with small forward Trevor Ariza, Gortat stands as the team's most prominent free agent.
Washington acquired the big man from the Phoenix Suns just a few days before the start of the regular season in exchange for Emeka Okafor and a No. 1 pick in 2014. According to Hoopshype.com, Gortat, who turns 31 in February, earned $7.7 million this season. Expect him to receive a raise and a multi-year deal this summer.
The Wizards only have six players under contract for next season. In addition, they can make qualifying offers to Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin, who would be the lone center on the roster should Gortat not return.
Washington finished the regular season 44-38, reached the postseason for the first time since 2008, won games in the second round for the first time since 1982 and battled top-seeded Indiana for six games.
Not all 15 players will be back, but if the core returns, how far could this team go?
"I don’t know about how far, but if we’re talking about a healthy team we’ll definitely be a much better team," Gortat said. "No doubt about that."
Nene, Gortat's interior partner, missed 29 games while Beal, Otto Porter and Al Harrington missed chunks of time with injuries. Harrington returned after the All-Star break, around the same time Washington acquired guard Andre Miller an forward Drew Gooden. Those three veterans played heavy minutes off the bench over the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.
"We had some injuries, we had some ups and downs," Gortat said. "We have three players joining before the season [and] in the middle of the season, players that were in the rotation playing heavy minutes. We had people forgetting places, people not knowing the [defensive] rotations because we just didn’t have enough time to adjust, to build chemistry. I’m telling you, next year we’re going to be a much better team. We’re going to use this experience and next year we’re going to bring it."