Wake-up call: Will Wizards cater to Gortat or let him walk?

Wake-up call: Will Wizards cater to Gortat or let him walk?
May 18, 2014, 6:00 am
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The hardest part is out of the way for the Wizards if they are to keep center Marcin Gortat. He wants to be here and they have the pass-first point guard he desires to play with in John Wall. But will they re-arrange a few chairs to make him more comfortable in the offense? 

An unrestricted free agent who was acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns days before the 2013-14 season began, Gortat has a few demands that go beyond a raise from his $7.7 million salary. 

“There’s a few different priorities I’m going to look at. What’s the goal of the team ... the point guard, my role on the team. It’s really important. I don’t want to be just a rim runner and rebounder and trying to set screens and stuff like that. I don’t want to be the decoy," Gortat said. "I want to be the guy who can get the ball and create stuff for other guys. I do believe I can do that."

In losing in the East semifinals to the Indiana Pacers in six games, the Wizards stole Game 1 on the road and had a chance to even win the series. But they lost three consecutive games. That included Gortat only totaling six points in Games 3 and 4 when he was an after-though in the offense. When the Wizards chose to play through him in Game 5, he had 31 points and 16 rebounds.

Will coach Randy Wittman, who can be old school, be more accommodating? Gortat got into hot water with Wittman earlier in the season when he questioned his role in the offense. He didn't like being a garbage man who cleaned up other people's messes. He was accustomed to play more pick-and-roll with teammate Steve Nash in Phoenix and being a primary option in the offense. With the Wizards, Nene is the primary low post option. And then there are a bunch of three-point shooters ahead of him, too. 

"Who’s going to be the coach and the coaching staff? All those things are going to be important. The ownership. If they’re willing to spend money to build a strong team to compete for the championship. That’s the crucial thing," Gortat continued. "There’s a lot of different things I’m going to look at. But I’m not going to lie, No.  1 is probably a point guard. I can't play with blind point guards. I can't do that. I have to play with a guy that’s a willing passer who wants to get better. A guy who wants to play pick-and-roll and John is probably on top of that list."

If Gortat leaves, that'll put the Wizards in a tough spot. There's not a starting center on the roster. Nene balks at playing too far under the basket, Drew Gooden is more of a stretch player who can fill in when going to a smaller lineup and Kevin Seraphin hasn't shown signs that he's ready. 

That would leave the Wizards scrambling in free agency for a fix, and there's none available the quality of Gortat.