|20 August 2013|
|Marcin Gortat: "I've had enough of losing and I finally want to achieve a medal with the national team" |
Marcin Gortat, nicknamed the 'Polish machine', made two pledges to his national team this summer and has already delivered on the first one, to re-join the squad in preparations during last weekend's friendly tournament in Antwerp.
In fact the star 29-year-old center did so in such a convincing manner that he forced all those who had doubted he would fulfil his promise when he left the Polish training camp 20 days earlier, to mince their words.
Gortat arrived at the Sunday warm-up game against hosts Belgium almost straight from the airport, following a long flight back from the western part of the United States, to drop 20 points and lead his team to a dominant 66-52 win.
On Monday, Gortat poured in 18 points and fellow big man Maciej Lampe added 16 points as Poland defeated Italy 82-79 to win the three-day tournament unbeaten, since they had also prevailed over Israel on the opening day, sans the Phoenix Suns center.
In between these last two friendly encounters, and after having come good on his first promise, Gortat made his second summer pledge to Polish fans.
"I'll do anything to dominate the paint, I am convinced that there is no basketball player who can guard me," the big man told polskikosz.pl, proving that he returned from this three-week trip to the USA for rehabilitation in bullish mood.
"What I say might sound presumptuous, but at this point I'm very confident.
"I've had enough of losing and I finally want to achieve a medal with the national team.
"I am not interested in who we are playing against, our task is to beat anyone who gets in our way and we must go [to the EuroBasket] with this attitude."
Gortat's optimism is based partly on him feeling the best he has since suffering a foot injury in an NBA regular season game in March.
"It feels very good, I do not feel any pain," he said, after joking initially that he is only "playing at 20%" of his abilities right now.
"I have however to continue performing strengthening exercises but I'm at a stage in my career that I know what I need to do as a professional.
"If I need to arrive at the gym two hours before the game and stretch properly, then I will do it."
The other reason behind Gortat's determined outlook has to do with his fruitful frontcourt partnership with Lampe, a long-time friend and team-mate, who is also at the peak of his career as a player right now.
The Suns big man had once said that he 'could write a book' on Lampe, and their mutual understanding only seems to get better as the years go by.
|Poland sport one of the best frontcourt duos in Gortat and Maciej Lampe (pictured)|
"I do not know whether it was our best game together [against Belgium], but it certainly was one of the best ones," Gortat said.
"Maciek [Lampe] has amazing skill and this is the Maciej Lampe I want to play with, the one who moves also on the perimeter, distributes the ball, and can strike from a distance.
"Some said that there would not be enough room for both of us under the basket, but we showed that we lack nothing and no one could complain about anything.
"I must admit that Maciek was half of my success."
Gortat averaged 21.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game last summer, to propel Poland to a successful qualification campaign that landed them a place at the EuroBasket in Slovenia.
The last time he played alongside Lampe was during the national team's Division A campaign prior to EuroBasket 2011, and the duo combined for 34.6 points and 16.5 rebounds, but they were both unlucky and miss out on the final tournament in Lithuania, and Poland won only two of their five First Round games.
The new Poland head coach, Dirk Bauermann, has made no secret of his satisfaction to be able to count with this star frontcourt combination in Slovenia, and has more than adequate back-up inside, in the form of Michal Ignerski, Adam Hrycaniuk and the youngster Przemyslaw Karnowski.
The German tactician released on Tuesday two more players from training camp, forwards Tomasz Gielo and Damian Kulig, to trim his preliminary squad down to 13 men.
Poland are hosting a warm-up tournament this weekend in Lublin and Bauermann could very well make the final cut from the squad after its completion, announcing the 12-strong team that will fly to Slovenia.
Poland's preliminary team until then consists of Michal Chylinski, Marcin Gortat, Adam Hrycaniuk, Michal Ignerski, Przemyslaw Karnowski, Thomas Kelati, Lukasz Koszarek, Maciej Lampe, Mateusz Ponitka, Krzysztof Szubarga, Adam Waczynski, Lukasz Wisniewski and Przemysław Zamojski.
Poland were drawn in First Round Group C at EuroBasket 2013 and will do battle with reigning champions Spain, hosts Slovenia, Croatia, Georgia and the Czech Republic.