Dispatches from Poland — Marcin Gortat's 2016 Basketball Camp | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Dispatches from Poland — Marcin Gortat’s 2016 Basketball Camp

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Updated: July 6, 2016

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Hard to believe that it’s already been nine years, around when Marcin Gortat entered the NBA, since he and his people started organizing a series of camps for kids in Poland. On the last six occasions, a Polish celebrity game was played at the end of the series. This year, I was on-hand to cover the events for TAI.

Traditionally, Gortat has brought some special guests from the U.S. to help out. This year Garrett Temple joined the Polish Machine in his homeland—after two years of Marcin asking him to come. There were two other prominent Polish basketball players taking part: Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski and Adam Waczyński, the third best scorer of the Spanish ACB last season. Gortat also invited three coaches: David Adkins, player development coach for the Wizards; Neal Meyer, former NBA assistant who now currently helps with the league operations in Europe; and Mike Taylor, the head coach of Poland’s national team. Team mascot G-Wiz, like last year, was there as well.

I was at the final of five camps—the one that took place in Kraków, a big, beautiful city in the south of Poland. Two notable things occurred before Gortat and his entourage arrived in Kraków. At the first camp of the series, Gortat announced, 100 percent, that he’s quitting the Polish national team (something he indicated was 99 percent certain in late-2015). Second, during their stay in Warsaw, Gortat and his team were invited to watch Poland’s soccer game at UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, alongside Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydło.

Once Poland scored, this happened:

Temple was also all about rooting for Poland.

The camp in Kraków started on Friday evening with a practice for disabled children in wheelchairs. The pro players sat down in wheelchairs as well, soon realizing how difficult basketball is from a seated position. Temple lost the ball multiple times when he tried wheelchair crossovers. His on-floor communication was better: Temple learned some basic Polish in order to communicate with the children, which was a very nice gesture. A showcase game in wheelchairs was also played by Polish national team, and some of their plays left camp coaches in awe.

The main event kicked off at noon on Saturday. As usual, Gortat announced his guests before they ran onto the court. Another nice gesture by Temple: he introduced himself to the public by singing “Polska, Biało-Czerwoni,” which is a song that Polish fans belt at the stadium in support of their national team. (At this time of this dispatch, Poland was in a soccer frenzy, but they’ve since been knocked out by Portugal after 120 minutes, losing 3-5 in the decisive penalty shootout.)

In order to watch Poland’s first knockout stage game versus Portugal, Gortat moved the NBA Jr. Clinic from after the kids camp to before, and the camp was a bit shorter than usual. The practice was obviously a great opportunity for the kids to learn from true professionals, but it was also a great opportunity for me to talk NBA with some people straight from the league. David Adkins is my personal favorite of the NBA people I’ve interviewed—and not just because he complimented me on my Wizards T-shirt and expressed his appreciation of the questions I asked. Apart from coach Adkins and Garrett Temple, I also got to talk with Marcin Gortat during his presser. It turns out that if you start asking an NBA player NBA-related questions in Poland, most of the journalists lose interest and the presser almost turns to an exclusive interview. We spoke just after the Joakim Noah, $120 million max contract offer from the Wizards rumor surfaced.

On the Noah rumor:

“I didn’t fully believe it, I don’t care about such situations. It would be like shooting ourselves in the foot, if we signed Noah for four years, $120 million—a player that didn’t have a fantastic season. I didn’t panic, waited for the events to unfold, and after a couple of hours I got a call telling me not to care about this hoax, because it’s not true.”

On if he’d see Noah coming off the bench at all (not at the max contract):

“I don’t think Noah would agree to be my substitute. He’s a very talented player that can easily be a starter.”

On if he’d been assured he’s not going to be traded:

“I don’t have any assurance per se, but we talked about this, and I was told I won’t be traded for now. I’m an important piece for this team.”

On the Wizards not making any moves during the draft:

“It’s a good thing to do, because we wouldn’t acquire anybody who would give us as much production as Markieff Morris. That’s why that trade was genius. It’s better to give up the 13th or 15th pick and get an experienced player. That’s a much better solution.”

At the end of the event, the kids had a turn to ask Gortat questions. Little campers were curious about how many cars Marcin had (two Porsche Panameras in Poland; a Rolls Royce and a Ford F-150 in the States), who he cheered for in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Warriors), how many houses Gortat owned (two in Orlando, one in Washington, and a small two-room flat on the same block of flats where his parents live in his hometown, Łódź), and, finally, which NBA player would he like to block. Gortat’s answer: “LeBron, because I tried to block Kevin Durant three times and he posterized me every time. I give up on trying to block KD from now on.”

On Sunday, Team Gortat played the Polish Army team. On Gortat’s side was Adam Waczyński and a bunch of celebrities, while the Polish Army team consisted of Garrett Temple, Agnieszka Szott-Hejmej (Polish women’s basketball player, whom I mostly remember for winning some kind of beauty contest in the past), and Polish soldiers. The Army team dominated from the start, as Temple showcased more highlight-worthy dunks than he has in his entire NBA career. Waczyński was constantly torching the net for Team Gortat, but the host of the event fell short to the Army, 62-71.

I asked Waczyński, whose shooting form got compliments from Temple, about his talks with the Wizards (last year Tommy Sheppard extended him an invite for the Wizards’ summer camp).

Here’s what he told me:

“I was invited by the Wizards for this year’s Summer League, and the training camp, but right now I’m negotiating a contract with a new team in Spain. I decided to play it safe, as the Wizards wouldn’t offer me a guaranteed contract right away. Obviously, I’m not burning any bridges, so hopefully I will get another shot in the future. My agent is in touch with other NBA teams as well.”

It is believed that Waczyński, after a tremendous season for Obradoiro, will move to one of the top Spanish teams, Unicaja Malaga.

And that’s it from me. I leave you with a video from the Skills Challenge, where campers competed to win a trip to Washington with Gortat. As he’s done before, Gortat invited each camp’s MVP to the States instead of only the winner of the Skills Challenge. In the video, Gortat and Temple compete against each other. Keep in mind that they’re using a smaller-sized ball.

[Click to watch the video.]

As always, the camp provided a lot of fun for everybody.

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Bartosz Bielecki on Twitter
Bartosz Bielecki
Polish Correspondent at TAI
Bart is TAI’s Polish correspondent, covering all things Marcin Gortat from the mother country, including transcribing Gortat interviews with Polish media.