Fittingly, it was Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall who broke the news. On the first day of NBA free agency, July 1, Wall tweeted:
While the status of free-agent forward Trevor Ariza is still up in the air, the Wizards made a major move in keeping their 2013-14 playoff team intact by re-signing center Marcin Gortat to a contract reported to be for five years, $60 million. During the 2013-14 season, Gortat earned $7.7 million.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman, along with senior vice president Tommy Sheppard and assistant Pat Sullivan, traveled to Gortat's native Poland with a dual purpose -- to assist Gortat with his basketball camps and to convince him to remain with the Wizards. In the end, Gortat received the assurances he was looking for and elected to remain in Washington.
After the Indiana Pacers eliminated the Wizards during the second round of the playoffs, and talk turned to preparing for the 2014-15 season, Gortat made it clear that if he were to return, he would like to play with a top-flight point guard, and he'd prefer a bigger role in the offense. Condition one, playing with Wall, was already in place.
Wall signed a five-year extension in July 2013, and he and shooting guard Bradley Beal are in the conversation as one of the best backcourt duos in the league. Gortat also established a strong bond with his frontcourt partner Nene, the Wizards' Brazilian power forward, almost immediately.
As for his role in the offense, Gortat said he liked to run the pick-and-roll, and that he preferred not to be used as a decoy. During the 2013-14 season, Gortat averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. The 6-foot-11 Gortat has played in the league for seven seasons and has not one, but two nicknames -- "The Polish Hammer" and "The Polish Machine." The Wizards acquired Gortat in October 2013 from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for center Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick.
During a recent radio interview, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis reiterated that his main focus was to keep the core of the 2013-14 team in place.
"It's incumbent upon us to try and do everything we can to keep our front line together," Leonsis said. "That's our main focus right now, and we can manage our cap in the out years the right way. We still will have some maneuverability this year to add more pieces, but we have a plan, and we have our budget, and we know what's doable. Our main focus and priority is to try to keep our team together to start and then add to it."
Like Wall, Gortat took to Twitter to express his thoughts after deciding to remain with the Wizards for the long haul. Gortat's initial tweet was simple:
:)))— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) July 2, 2014
Later, Gortat tweeted:
I'm proud to say Washington will be my home.— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) July 2, 2014