Marcin Gortat isn't completely cool with Randy Wittman calling him out

Marcin Gortat isn't completely cool with Randy Wittman calling him out

With Kevin Durant in town and the eyes of the NBA watching on Tuesday night, the defensive-minded Washington Wizards gave up 125 points in a loss to Oklahoma City, the most they had surrendered in nearly nine months. The embarrassment allowed coach Randy Wittman to vent about the team’s lacking effort on the defensive glass, offering that he (at age 56, having not played in the NBA for 23 years) could have grabbed at least one defensive rebound if afforded 27 minutes of play.

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The shot was clearly aimed at center Marcin Gortat, who picked up just one defensive rebound and three overall in 27 minutes. When pressed for comment as the Wizards resumed activities on Friday, Gortat didn’t exactly seem pleased by nameless dig.

From Jorge Castillo at the Washington Post:

“I don’t think it was necessary to call me out in the media like that,” Gortat said Friday after pausing for nine seconds before answering a question on the subject. “But it happened. I heard a different story in training camp, that stuff like that won’t happen. But it happened. So I disagree with what he did.”

From there, Gortat explained his absence on the glass:

“I believe a lot of the reasons [why] I didn’t get rebounds was because if we’re giving up 100 points in three quarters then there’s not much to rebound. That’s the first thing,” said Gortat, who is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game. “The second thing is I’m challenging a lot of shots. … The statistics don’t lie. I’ve been challenging a lot of shots. I’ve been helping in a lot of different rotations and I’m pretty much out of position over half of the time. The other half, when I’m under the basket, the ball most of the time just goes into the basket. So it is what it is.

“Again, that’s not an excuse at all. I watched the game. I watched the statistics from the game.  And, yeah, I agree, there were probably two or three situations where I should’ve had the rebound in my hands and I just didn’t secure the ball.”

Here come the drawbacks.

Wittman was credited unendingly for adapting to a modern style of play during the exhibition season, eschewing the big Wizards lineup and encouraging his team to run. He moved forward/center Nene from the starting unit and partially as a result the Wizards are tops in the NBA in possessions per game after ranking 18th last year.

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They’re also down to 27th in defense after hitting the top five last season, and the offense has even fallen five spots to the same spot as the D. Meanwhile, the team has dipped from third in defensive rebound rate to 21st. Hardly a calamitous spot, and it’s only been through seven games (of which the Wizards have won three), but that’s a massive drop.

When told of Gortat’s comments, Wittman understandably shifted the blame a bit:

“It didn’t matter who it is, if it’s the center, in 28 minutes we got to get more than one defensive rebound,” Wittman said. “Defensive rebounding is our strength. It’s been our strength. We got to get that back. That’s everybody. I can’t have Bradley Beal out there playing 28 minutes getting one defensive rebound. John Wall. They’re too capable. It doesn’t matter who it is. We got to get back to doing that as a group.”

It’s true that the big man will need help, as Gortat was never that crazy a rebounder to begin with, and as Marcin pointed out he does have to chase interlopers in and out of the lane as the team’s one true big man in the lineup. With Nene working off the pine and for only 18 minutes a night, Gortat has quite a bit on his plate. And forward replacement Kris Humphries isn’t helping much – he’s averaged just five a game and his defensive rebounding rate is far below par.

So is Gortat’s, however, and he’s averaging just 7.3 a game despite all those extra possessions.

To his credit, he understands this and mentioned finding some trick in the weight room – even at 31 years of age – that would help turn the tide in this realm. Again, Gortat was never a knockout rebounder to begin with, so it’s hard to imagine what he’ll come up with this late in the game, but any bit helps.

“He’s the man who’s in charge and I’m a player,” Marcin concluded, in reference to his coach, but the man in charge might have a bigger problem on his hands as he guides a team that entered Saturday night with a 3-4 record. Wittman seemed to be unleashing the beast by going small and encouraging his team to fire three-pointers at will and push the ball. They’ve lost something defensively, however, and only time will tell if this is a result of the change in operation or just an early-season quirk.

The passive/aggressive approach for Wittman, however, probably isn’t the right move. Especially not through the press.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!