After former Magic center and Dwight Howard backup Marcin Gortat was traded to the Phoenix Suns last season, he ended up taking the starting center job from the incumbent Robin Lopez. It didn’t take long at all.
In a recent Q+A at a kids’ basketball camp (hat tip to SB Nation’s Seth Pollack), Gortat talked about his feelings towards Lopez:
Marcin said that on his first day in Phoenix he asked Robin if practice started on the court or with a video session. Robin told Marcin that he didn’t know so Gortat went to the gym while Lopez went to watch video. According to Gortat, a coach came to get him and asked why he was late and Marcin said that he had asked Robin and was told he didn’t know where practice was starting. The coach said everyone knew where they were supposed to be. Marcin took that as a sign of where things stood between himself and Lopez.
Gortat went on to talk about the opportunity that Lopez had to earn and keep the starting job.
“This guy (Lopez) had such a big chance, such a big opportunity, to play in the best league. When I was Orlando, playing behind Dwight (Howard), I was praying to get a chance to play and he (Lopez) has had this chance for two years and he didn’t take.
So I thought, when you don’t want it, there will be 50 persons behind you, waiting to take this chance, and then I came by and I took (it). Sorry, that’s business, that’s life.”
(In an email, Lopez said that he didn’t send Gortat to the wrong place maliciously, but rather simply didn’t know whether the practice would start in the video room or the court that day.)
According to basketballvalue.com, Lopez wasn’t exactly doing everything he could to prove his worth both before and after the Gortat trade, as he had a team-low -8.09 adjusted plus-minus last season. We’ll see if this center battle gets genuinely nasty next season. Or if the Suns decide they need to ship one of them out of town.