WASHINGTON — Like many people of advanced age, Marcin Gortat is pondering the twilight of his career and the prospects of retiring to Florida.
The only difference is that he’s half their age. And still has a mohawk.
At 33, though, and his best basketball years likely behind him, Gortat is being realistic about what he might have left in the tank. At this point, he has another season left on his Wizards’ contract, and then that might be the end of the road for him.
“The way I’m feeling right now, probably yes,” Gortat confirmed. “About why I want to do that, it’s not because I hate basketball or I hate the Washington Wizards or I hate the city or I hate the NBA. No. I want to retire because I’m old, first of all.
“Two, if I retire…and there would be an opportunity for me to be with the Magic, I would love to do that because I live in Orlando. That’s the only reason. If I have an opportunity, I could be there but I want to fulfill my contract here. A year and a half. Unless they say ‘[Forget] it, we don’t like you. You got to go!'”
He didn’t say “forget it,” but we get it.
Gortat isn’t having his best statistical season and a common narrative is that the NBA game, which increasingly moves away from big men who screen, taking charges and rebound, in favor of shot-blocking and perimeter shooting. But that isn’t Gortat’s game.
The good–if underreported–news is that Gortat is doing exceptionally well at screen assists. A relatively new league stat, it’s defined as screens “for a teammate that directly lead to a made field goal by that teammate.” In other words, it’s the assist for guys who never handle the ball.
Gortat led the NBA in screen assists last season. He led again for much of this season but fell to second place with 4.9 screen assists per game, 0.3 behind Andre Drummond for first.
As NBA.com’s John Schuhmann points out, volume is key here, as Gortat specializes in setting the screen. Nobody sets more screens than the Wizards and Gortat is a master of that. So even when he’s feeling old or frustrated about his role in the offense, Gortat is still an impact player for the Wizards.
Coach Scott Brooks said as much late last month.
“He gets our offense going,” he said of Gortat. “He’s the best in the league and he’s going to be that way for a long time because he wants to do it and he enjoys getting guys open. We just have to find him a few more times when he does roll because he does like to score around the basket also.”
Gortat plays a different style than the modern big man, but he plays it very well. He’s still a key part of the Wizards’ offense and he said he has the ability to play at least four more years. Brooks seems as confused by the retirement chatter as anyone.
“It’s not like his career is over after this season. He’s not even 34 yet, so there’s still some basketball [left],” Brooks said. “I don’t think he should be thinking about retiring yet.”
But that’s just Gortat.
“That’s how I am; that’s how I feel,” Gortat said bluntly. “Money’s not the most important thing for me in life. I want to have a family. I’m thinking about family. I’m thinking about children, about different things in life.”