After the Wizards’ 24-point loss to the Thunder last week – Washington’s third straight setback – Randy Wittman laid into his team:
We don’t defend. Guys drive by us at will. We don’t have any toughness. We don’t hit anybody and rebound the ball. We’ve got guys that play 27 minutes and get one defensive rebound. I can get a rebound, I guarantee you. If you give me 27 minutes on a Saturday, I’ll get you a rebound. And that’s what it boils down to – 50-50 balls; the dirty stuff. We don’t get dirty. And that’s on me. We’ve got three days to find the guys that’ll play that way.”
That was a shot at Marcin Gortat, who got one rebound against Oklahoma City.
Safe to say, the Wizards center didn’t appreciate it.
Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Washington:
“I’ve been called out in the media. People can see this differently but bottom line is I’ve been called out,” said Gortat after Friday’s practice in his first comments since then when he grabbed just one defensive rebound in 28 minutes. “I agree, I had one defensive rebound and I get that. I should have more. There’s no secret about that. I got to do a better job. I truly believe that games like that will happen during the season. I just got to do a better job obviously. Games like that happen. Last year, too. … I just got to do better.”
Then came another pause before adding: “I don’t think it was necessary to call me out in the media like that. 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.”
I believe one of the reasons I didn’t have many rebounds is that we’re giving up 100 points in three quarters. There’s not much to rebound is the first thing. The second thing, I’m challenging a lot of shots. The stat sheets don’t lie. … I’ve been helping on a lot of different rotations and I’m pretty much out of position over half of the time. The other half when I’m other the basket the ball most of the time goes in the basket. It is what it is. That’s no an excuse at all. I’m saying what happened. I watched the game. I watched the statistic from the game. There probably were two, three situations where I probably should have the rebound in my hands and I just didn’t secure the ball. But stuff like that will happen. … It’s a part of the game. I don’t think I was the biggest problem in that game.”
“Nah, it is what it is,” Gortat said when asked if he felt motivated as a result. “He’s the man who’s in charge and I’m a player. I have to follow the rules. I have to follow what he says. That’s it. It’s a business.”
Not long ago, Gortat was raving about how great his relationship was with Wittman. But that was when the Wizards were giving Gortat $60 million.
Gortat and Wittman have a rocky history – understandable for a proud player and coach who believes players should handle criticism.
They’ll probably get over this. Gortat had 13 points and 10 rebounds – five defensive – in a nine-point win over the Magic on Saturday.
But it’s a little more friction than necessary in the interim. Gortat’s teammates are even getting caught in the crossfire. “I don’t think I was the biggest problem in that game.” I wonder how many players in the locker room are wondering whether Gortat meant them.
It ultimately falls on Wittman to read this situation. If he motivates Gortat, great. If he just irritates a player over a random off game, Wittman is doing more damage than good.