Marcin Gortat had options. Teams were calling, including the Miami Heat (although they wanted him to take a steep discount). It’s always nice to be wanted.
But Gortat didn’t want to go anywhere — he wanted to stay in Washington.
Of course, the five-year, $60 million didn’t hurt (okay, that was the primary motivation), but Gortat did want to stay. Gortat was in Orlando to watch the Wizards’ Summer League team and spoke to NBA TV about his decision, as transcribed by J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.
“I like the city. I like the team. I definitely feel comfortable over there. The team really took me under their wing and they helped me since Day 1. I love the chemistry between me and John Wall,” said Gortat, who was traded by the Phoenix Suns to Washington less than a week before last season began and signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $60 million deal to stay put. “I think Bradley Beal is going to be a great player one day. Coach Randy (Wittman) believes in me. I have a great relationship with him.
“The decision was really easy for me. We can be a special team for the next four or five years.”
The Wizards plan is to get the band back together from what was the third best team in the East by the end of last season and count on the improvements of John Wall and Bradley Beal to improve (as well as a few smaller moves).
That requires bringing back Trevor Ariza, who has a number of suitors (again including the Heat, who met with him on Saturday). Gortat wants to see him back and thinks the Wizards are poised to do damage in the East.
“Trevor is a big part of our success. We’d like to have him back …. We love him. We want him back. I believe (president) Ernie (Grunfeld) and Tommy Sheppard are going to do the right thing,” Gortat said. “Nene has to stay healthy. You’ve got to make sure he’s going to take care of his body. We got to make sure we limit his minutes to be consistent, to be good for us, productive. Make sure we’re not going to overload the guy.
“We believe we can be a better team next year. We had a lot of guys joining the team in the middle of the season. Me, Drew Gooden, Andre Miller. We believe next year at the same time we’re going to be a much better team.”
In what could be an unpredictable East as free agency still shakes itself out, the Wizards have to like their position.
It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.
Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).
“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.
“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.
Brady earned that trash talk.
It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.
The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.
More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:
This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.
That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.
For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.
The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).
Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.
Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.
Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.
Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.
Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.
Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.
As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.
The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.
“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”
While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.
When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.
One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).