Marcin Gortat

Marcin Gortat says Wizards are sometimes ‘mentally weak’


Depending on your perspective, the Washington Wizards either blew their game against Phoenix last night by falling behind by 25 points in the third quarter or showed resiliency by cutting the deficit to three points late.

Considering the Suns ultimately won, 99-93, you can guess how the Washington players interpreted the game.

Marcin Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Washington:

“Embarrassing,” said Gortat, who clearly was choosing his words carefully. “Nobody expected we’re going to play like that. We just didn’t perform.”

Those comments led to this question from me, using Harrington’s Feb. 8 comments — said in a constructively critical fashion, mind you — as a springboard to whether Gortat believes that observation still holds true based on how the Wizards have performed down the stretch.

“Oh, yeah. He’s a veteran,” Gortat said. “He’s definitely a smart guy. Bright guy. I will stand behind his words. Sometimes we just show that mentally we’re weak and just not competing. That’s it.”

The Wizards have lost six of nine, bringing a bit of a crisis of confidence in Washington.

Gortat is getting blunt. Randy Wittman is considering lineup changes.

The Wizards now hold just a 1.5-game lead over the Bobcats for the No. 6 seed and the right to avoid a first-round matchup with the Heat or Pacers, so some concern is certainly understandable. But is something actually going wrong for Washington? Here are the the Wizards’ last nine games:

  • at Heat (loss)
  • vs. Bobcats (loss)
  • at Magic (win)
  • vs. Nets (win)
  • at Kings (loss)
  • at Trail Blazers
  • at Lakers (win)
  • at Nuggets (loss)
  • vs. Suns (loss)

Most of those games are against teams in playoff position. Most of those games are on the road. Going 3-6 in that stretch might be on the low end of the expected range, but I don’t think it’s outside it.

Remember, the Wizards started the season 2-7. Though they played better through most of the middle of the season, they haven’t transformed into an elite team overnight – even if expectations rose quickly.

A small blip in winning doesn’t necessarily make them mentally weak. But Gortat is privy to behind-the-scenes considerations that might make his assessment accurate.

Either way, even if it’s not necessary, an increased sense of urgency won’t hurt anything.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.