Marcin Gortat experiencing the joys of playing alongside Steve Nash
When the Phoenix Suns acquired Marcin Gortat, along with Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus, back in December, they were hoping that the underused big man would thrive outside of the shadow of Dwight Howard.
So far, so good.
Through his first 20 games with the Suns, Gortat has averaged 10.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 25 minutes per game — all career highs. His play as of late has been even more impressive, posting six double-doubles in his last eight games and setting new career highs for points (25) and rebounds (17) along the way.
For a guy who was averaging just 4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game this season with the Orlando Magic before the trade, this is huge. And don’t think for a second that Gortat doesn’t love every minute of it.
He is basking in his new role, logging significant minutes each game that have him waking up tired in the mornings.
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Gortat also showed early on that he would have no problem speaking his mind and did so less than a week after being dealt to Phoenix as he harped on the team’s poor defense and rebounding.
Now, his production has finally caught up to his words, and the guy who has an opinion on virtually everything isn’t shy about sharing the secret to his success — Steve Nash.
“This guy is going to make a blind guy look good in basketball,” Gortat was quoted as saying in the Arizona Republic about Nash. “There’s nobody else who passes the ball better in the league right now.”
Gortat has also recently said that Nash is better than Boston’s Rajon Rondo, that he will help Nash lead the league in assists this year and make him an MVP again, and that Nash is at least half the reason for his recent strong play.
If Gortat sounds more like a teenage girl gushing about Justin Bieber than a player nicknamed “The Polish Hammer,” you’ll have to forgive him, because he is quickly learning what a number of players over the years, from Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw to Leandro Barbosa and Quentin Richardson, already know — playing with Nash makes you a better player.
But the relationship has not been one sided. As Gortat has become more comfortable in the Suns’ system and at running the pick and roll, Nash’s assist numbers have gone up as well. He led the NBA with 12.1 assists in January, and the groove the two have developed has been reminiscent of the way Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire used to run the pick and roll from every angle on the court. Gortat is even beginning to finish like Stoudemire, recently posterizing the Hornets’ Quincy Pondexter.
That’s good news for the Suns, who have been disappointed in Robin Lopez’s struggles this season and desperately needed a mobile big man who was a strong finisher and could complement Nash’s passing talents.
It’s also good news for Gortat, who seems to have finally found a place that suits his game and a player in Nash who can make the game that much easier for him.
By: Eric Lorenz
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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