Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat had an interesting offseason. He originally tried to play for his national team in the 2011 Eurobasket Tournament but was unable to compete for Poland due to insurance issues. He later came close to signing with a team in Turkey just weeks before the NBA lockout ended. But before the lockout even began, the Phoenix Suns sent Marcin to spend some quality time with Hakeem Olajuwon to work on his low post game.
Gortat said that Hakeem had 100's of moves and that he managed to pick up a "couple of them". He hopes to use some of that improve skill this season, "We're going to have 66 games in the season so hopefully I'm going to be able to show what I can do."
The focus for Marcin, however, remains his defense and rebounding. Physically, he wants to get stronger in his lower back and continue to rely on what's made him successful so far -- heart and determination.
When Gortat arrived in Phoenix he fell into the rotation behind Robin Lopez but by the end of the year, he had secured both the starting job and the majority of the minutes. Lopez, who's been widely praised for his offseason improvement, sounds like he's going to battle Gortat for floor time.
"He's definitely better right now," Gortat said of his fellow center. "Physically, he get stronger. He got more confidence. He kind of hungry of playing. He wants to have the ball in his hands. It's good. It's going to help us. We're going to compete for the job and I'm looking forward (to it)."
Gortat prides himself on defense and was outspoken at times last season when the Suns weren't getting it done on that end of the floor. We've heard a lot this training camp about the renewed commitment to get stops but we've also heard coach Alvin Gentry temper expectations, especially for early in the season.
One reason to be patient is the changes the team is making with their defensive scheme with the arrival of new "defensive coordinator", Elston Turner.
From the defensive stand point, Gortat said this feels like his third NBA team due to the changes, "Obviously, Orlando first. Last year (with the Suns) second. And this year, everything is totally different. We'll see how it works during this season. I believe those changes are good for us. There's a lot of new rotations. I'm kind of familiar with everything we do because we had similar in Orlando, but end of the day, the results will show if we are better or not."
The Arizona Cardinals went through a very similar process this year. They hired hired a new defensive coordinator (Ray Horton) and also lost a lot of offseason prep time due to a lockout. The Cardinals defense struggled early in the season but by Week 9 of the NFL season, Arizona emerged as one of the better defenses in the league. Can the Suns do the same?
Here's some video from media day, including Wil from Bright Side of the Sun who looks a bit too much like Marcin Gortat: