The Toronto Raptors (20-6) are the top team in the Eastern Conference, but the Washington Wizards (18-6) aren’t too far behind.
In fact, the Wizards, who trail the Raptors by just one game in the standings, have won five straight and nine of 10.
“Well, obviously it’s going pretty good right now,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think it’s still too early to say what kind of team we are, and I think it’s still too early to say we are a championship team. But right now we are playing pretty good basketball and obviously we want to continue to do this. Every game is going to afford us a chance to become a better and better team. There’s still a few things we got to work on, and we definitely got to develop killer instincts and make sure we can finish teams in the third or fourth quarter. We have those moments in the game where we let the team come back and then we have to play the fourth quarter and kind of sweat to make sure we get a win.”
Washington ranks second in the league in assists (25.8 per game) and is sixth in scoring defense (96.5 points per game allowed).
Gortat, who leads Washington in blocks (1.42) and rebounds (8.3), has been a defensive stalwart for the Wizards. He’s also third on the team in scoring, with 13.6 points per game.
Gortat, who was born in Poland, probably learned a few things about offense and defense from his father, Janusz Gortat, who won the bronze medal in boxing at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics in Munich and Montreal, respectively. Janusz lost to American great Leon Spinks in the Olympics but later beat him in the world championships.
And no, Janusz was not as tall as his 6-11 son.
“I don’t think he was that big,” Gortat said. “He was a decent size. I would say probably about 6-5. That was his height probably. He was more of a technique guy, a finesse guy, than a power guy. He had a few good fights.”
So, did father ever give son a few pointers?
“I think I can throw a few punches,” Gortat said. “I don’t know if (I’d) be great at different (combinations), but yeah, I guess I can do a few different things. I hope I won’t have to find out on the court obviously. But I think my dad taught me a few things.”
Gortat, 30, has also learned a few things from 37-year-old Paul Pierce, who is in the midst of his first season in the nation’s capital. Pierce is averaging 13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
“It’s an honor to play with Paul Pierce,” Gortat said. “I used to compete against him every year when I played back in Orlando, but now being with him on the same team, it’s a huge honor and it’s a (great) experience. This guy’s a true professional. You better (not) tweet or (post something on) Instagram when it’s game day because he’s going to catch you and he’s going to yell at you. He’s really professional about everything. He (arrives) early every day, he works out hard – he’s all about business on the court. I love this about him. I truly love this.”