Pixels from Camp in Poland: A Stop in the Summer of Gortat
[Ed. Note: TAI's Polish correspondent, Bart Bielecki, debuted at the end of July with a translation of a stellar Marcin Gortat interview with the Polish publication Gazeta Wyborcza.pl. This led to some guest work by Bielecki for Gazeta, in which the presence of TAI and quotes from yours truly made their way into the Polish media. Today, Bielecki returns with a further look at the basketball camp that Gortat held in his homeland earlier this summer. —KW]Marcin Gortat returned to Poland in June to organize his seventh annual Marcin Gortat Camp.
Gortat Camp is actually a series of basketball camps, including one for kids from between 9 and 13 and one for players in the 14-to-17 age range in conjunction with the Jr. NBA program. Gortat tours Poland every summer with his camp. This year, because he was an unrestricted free agent, he limited himself to just three cities: Sopot, Warsaw and Cracow.
Gorat’s camps draw a lot of attention due to the guests he brings from the States. This year he invited former Wizards teammate Chris Singleton; Marty Conlon, a former NBA player (who played 14 games with the Washington Bullets in 1993-94) and is now a representative of the NBA Cares program; and Neal Meyer, who has been a coach with several franchises, including the Cavaliers, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Spurs.
Apart from his guests from the USA, Gortat was helped this year by some of the best Polish athletes representing Poland in basketball, volleyball and handball. Mike Taylor, the coach of Poland’s national team and the former coach of the D-League’s Maine Red Claws, also joined to help coordinate the drills for the kids.
Marcin Gortat, no mercy for the kids:
Working with young basketball players seems to be what Gortat really enjoys and is passionate about. At one of his camps he revealed that helping young players develop might be what he will be doing after he retires.
“I will have fun with my foundation. I will start more projects because I get a lot of satisfaction from it,” he said. “I would like to work with the kids—help a young guy so that he makes it to the NBA. These are my plans for the future. I would never want to be an agent or a head coach. I would like to be the kind of a coach that goes to the gym with a young player and practices with him every day.”
Of course, Gortat has also proclaimed aspirations for political office, such as one day being president of Poland.
For the third straight year, Marcin organized a celebrity game as the grand finale of the camp. It’s a contest between Team Gortat and the Polish Army Team. Gortat’s team includes all kind of celebrities, such as actors, singers or athletes invited by Gortat, while the NBA players represent the Army. Although the game is all about fun, you can really tell that both teams want to win.
Last year Gortat’s team lost to the Polish Army team (led by Jared Dudley) in dramatic fashion, as Marcin missed the buzzer-beating layup that would have sent the game to overtime.
“I thought Jared wouldn’t try to block me and would let me win the game, but he acted very ambitiously, so I had change the angle of my shot and I missed,” said Gortat about his missed layup.
The recap of last year’s game, including the final seconds can be seen here:
This year, more than 13,000 people showed up in the newly-built Cracow Arena to watch the game. Gortat and Singleton led a caravan to the game in a Polish army truck.
At halftime the best young players in each camp competed in a skills challenge to win a trip to the USA, as well as a Wizards game ticket—all sponsored by Gortat’s foundation. As is often the case, Gortat then emotionally invited all the contestants to the States instead of only the winner of the skills challenge.
This time Gortat’s team, led by Swansea’s and previously Arsenal’s goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, won 64-56. Chris Singleton, who represented the Polish Army team, wasn’t happy with the outcome of the game. In an interview with Karol Wasiek of SportoweFakty.pl Singleton said:
“I hate to lose. We should have won this game! What’s more, Gortat blocked one of my shots. He really pissed me off with that block!”
Obviously, Singleton realized the game was all about fun, and added:
Singleton also spoke about the camp and his relations with Gortat:
“I didn’t want to take a lot of shots. I wasn’t supposed to be the biggest highlight of this game. I shared the ball so that the others could score. Some of my teammates really impressed me—you can tell they can ball.”
“It’s organized very well, everything works as it should. Poland is a great country. For sure I would like to come back here one day. Gortat is a great guy, I love spending time with him. We like each other very much.”
Wizards Coach Randy Wittman, along with Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ vice president of basketball operations, joined Gortat at the camp’s finale in Cracow to take part in negotiations for Gortat’s new contract with Washington. Wittman was really clear about why he was in Poland.
“He’s staying, he ain’t goin’ nowhere. That’s why I’m here,” he said with a laugh on Polish national TV. “I’m gonna bring him home with me.”At the camp, Coach Wittman also spoke on the important of team unity:
“We would like to keep all the players together. When player stick together, they become a better team. If we stick together, we will grow together. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have played together for 12 years and they are winning championships. This is key in making a good, solid team. We intend to sign a new contract with Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, and then we want to continue developing together.”
Even before the negotiations started, Gortat seemed quite sure about staying in D.C. He was content with the re-signing of Andre Miller:
“I’m really happy, because he [Miller] is a very intelligent player, and a great teammate in the locker room. He helped us last year, and he will help us next year,” said Gortat for his camp. Ariza, however, was not re-signed, as it turned out.
Chris Singleton, another Wizard whose contract expired this summer, still remains unsigned.
“We will see what kind of offers I’ll get after the 1st of July,” said Singleton when asked about his NBA future back in June. “I want to play—that’s my goal for the upcoming season.”
Singleton reportedly worked out for NBA personnel in Las Vegas on Monday.
It was a real summer of Wizards in Poland this year, and it was a successful one. The Wizards’ staff accomplished their mission of signing Gortat, the kids were thrilled by the opportunity to practice with their idol, Polish fans enjoyed the celebrity game in a beautiful new arena in Cracow, and Gortat himself can be pleased as well.
After all, who wouldn’t be pleased after negotiating a $60 million contract?
Too bad the Polish media was more interested in Gortat terribly parking his brand new Porsche. Marcin replied to them with a picture of him reading the “Rules of The Road” book.