Marcin Gortat says he’s unhappy with role, denies it

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Marcin Gortat is playing well for the Wizards, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy.

Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Washington:

“I just don’t like the position I play. I’m constantly drifting more and more away from the basket. Quite honestly, that’s not my game. I’m capable of making or two plays like that but I feel more comfortable underneath the basket,” Gortat said. “I just got to talk to coach and clear things up. Just make sure we’re on the same page.” It’s something point guard John Wall has noticed. “He’s just not taking the same shots we’re used to him taking, especially in pick-and-roll situations. He’s turned a lot of those down the last couple of games,” Wall said. “He’s got to get his confidence back, especially in the fourth quarter when guys are going to trap me on pick-and-rolls. It’s up to him to make the play. We still believe in him to make those shots, to make those extra passes. He’s just got to get back into a rhythm.”

The numbers back up those assessments. Gortat is taking just 43 percent of his shots at the rim, by far his career low.

imageBut that doesn’t tell the whole story. When playing with Nene, a big man much more capable of stepping out of the paint, Gortat is actually getting shots at the rim in line with his time with the Suns.

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Nene recently injured his foot, and that has put Gortat in the somewhat uncomfortable position of being the big who spaces the floor.

So, Wizards coach Randy Wittman doesn’t have to completely re-work his offense to appease Gortat, merely just tinker with sets while Nene is out.

Or maybe Wittman needn’t do anything. Gortat (hat tip: Matt Moore of CBSSports.com):

There are degrees of frustration.

Players are often frustrated with their roles, but they’re usually not so frustrated that they say so publically. When stuff like this slips out, it often indicates that the player’s frustration outweighs his ability to filter himself.

The Wizards have lost four straight since Nene’s injury, so that makes it even more likely Gortat just reached another level on the frustration ladder. Issues that would get swept under the rug on winning teams come out on losing teams.

My best guess is Gortat fell somewhere in between rungs – frustrated enough to say he’s unhappy with role, but not so frustrated that he wanted to stick with his statement publically after a chance to take a deep breath and filter himself.

When Nene returns, this should take care of itself. The Wizards are more likely to win with him, and Gortat is more likely to get touches where he wants him.

But considering how frequently Nene suffers injuries, Wittman should prepare an offensive scheme that better utilizes Gortat when Nene is out.

NBA refs admit they missed James Harden’s shuffle-step travel

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Did James Harden travel on Monday night? Obviously.

But was Harden called for a travel by officials? No. At least, not at first.

Video of Harden’s ridiculous shuffle was circulated on social media after the Houston Rockets beat the Utah Jazz, 102-97. Harden was asked about the move by media, and said that he wasn’t going to tell on himself, which is fair enough.

On Tuesday the official NBA referee Twitter page decided to comment on the play at hand, admitting that they had made a mistake and had missed a travel.

Via Twitter:

Having a Twitter account hasn’t always worked out for the NBRA. Their explanations of what many would consider to be violations have often stood in the face of common sense. To that end, they’ve sometimes been mocked on social media, which is against their goal of having the social channel in the first place. But this play with Harden was a particular sore subject with fans around the league, and it was right of them in to make a comment.

At least they got it right.

Watch LeBron James get blocked at the rim by Jarrett Allen

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LeBron James is seemingly and ageless wonder. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is still one of the most athletic players to ever grace an NBA court, and despite his obvious physical decline, that’s not to say he’s a slouch out there. He’s not exactly late-career Boris Diaw just yet.

But LeBron is now 34 years old, and as such there are other players on the floor with him at any given time that have a bit more bounce than The King. James found that out the hard way on Tuesday night as the Lakers took on the Brooklyn Nets in New York.

During a play early in the first quarter, James drove to the basket only to be rejected by Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen at the rim.

The result was striking.

Via Twitter:

Good for Allen. It’s one thing to say you have played against the best player of all time, but it’s another thing altogether to swat him on a play that creates a turnover.

Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore fined $10,000 for bouncing ball into stands

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It wasn’t intentional.

With 9:09 remaining in what would be a Nets win over the Hawks in Brooklyn, D'Angelo Russell and Eric Davis completed a 2-on-1 fast break that Kent Bazemore could not stop. The Hawks called timeout, Bazemore had the ball in his hands and, in frustration, tried to throw a hard bounce pass off the stanchion and back to himself.

Except Bazemore missed and the ball went flying into the stands.

Tuesday the League announced Bazemore was fined $10,000 for “throwing the ball into the spectator stands.”

It’s understandable why the NBA does not want players launching the ball into where fans are sitting, so they fine players when it happens. And, thanks to precedent, those fine are whether the move was intentional or not. So, Bazemore takes a hit.

Bucks, 76ers, other teams practicing with “4 point line” to improve spacing instincts

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Space is the name of the game in the modern NBA.

Milwaukee is thriving in part because of the addition of three-point bomber Brook Lopez (still weird to type that) and a coach in Mike Budenholzer who encourages his players to shoot from deep, opening up the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo to drive the lane.

How Budenholzer reinforces that spacing — adding a four-point line on the practice floor and color-coding parts of the court — is part of a fascinating story by ESPN’s Malika Andrews on how coaches are “gamifying” practices to get through to players. The 76ers, Hawks, Nets, Bulls, and Bucks are the teams we know are using a four-point line in practice right now.

To explain how the Hawks’ 4-point line — which is painted onto the floor 5 feet beyond the regular 3-point line — helps his team, [Atlanta Hawks coach Paul] Pierce walks onto the court to physically demonstrate. The condensed version of Pierce’s 36-minute explanation, which is punctuated by wild gesticulation, is this: “Spacing changes the whole game.”

Atlanta targeted Young out of Oklahoma in the 2018 draft lottery, with hopes of building an offense around his long-range shooting and passing skills. Because Young is willing and able to shoot off the dribble from well beyond the 3-point arc, defenders are forced to step out to defend him almost as soon as he crosses half court. Although he already had that range before he joined the Hawks, Young acknowledges that not everybody has the natural instinct to pull up from that deep, so it helps to have a visual reminder…

Lloyd not only wants Young to shoot from the 4-point line but to make plays from there, too. Expanding the floor outward, in turn, creates space in the paint for big men such as second-year breakout John Collins. If a guard like Young can initiate a play from behind the 4-point line, defenses are forced to cover more ground and, eventually, make difficult choices and compromises.

While Young is struggling with those deep shots this season — 24.1 percent from three — the principle is still valid, and just his and the Hawks’ willingness to shoot from there has stretched defenses (they just don’t have the talent and experience yet to exploit those defenses properly). It’s what Stephen Curry brings naturally to the Warriors (that team has the talent and experience yet to exploit defenses).

It’s not just the four-point line. In Philadelphia, the corner-three spot on the court is a different color, a reminder to players they want to be and shoot from there. In Milwaukee, there are five taped-off boxes on the court, each about the size a person takes up standing there, a reminder of where Budenholzer wants players to be in a five-out offense.

For young players raised on computer learning and video games, the color coding — what Brett Brown called “gamification” of the court — works as reminders. Ones that, ideally, carry over into games themselves.