Gortat Likely Finished for Season

(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

It hasn’t been a good year to be a center for the Phoenix Suns.

Suns center/power forward Channing Frye was lost for the season with an enlarged heart in September. Backup center Jermaine O’Neal is on his second leave of absence this season, the latest one being due to his 13-year-old daughter’s heart surgery.

Now it appears starting center Marcin Gortat will be out for the remainder of the season. He suffered a sprained right arch in a game against the Raptors on Wednesday.

“We just did an MRI this morning and got the results a few minutes ago,” Gortat said Thursday. “Our head trainer said that I have to put a cast on for at least three weeks.” With 34.6 seconds left in the first quarter of the Suns-Raptors game, Gortat stepped on the foot of Toronto’s Amir Johnson before attempting to outlet the ball for a fast break. The 6-11 center crumbled immediately to the floor before being helped off the court. Although x-rays were negative, he never returned to the bench.

“It looks like it’s more like the season than three weeks,” the sixth-year veteran said. “Because after the three weeks there is going to be another week of treatment before I’m going to get back into condition and everything. Then the season is going to be over.”

Up until this point, Gortat is the only Sun to start every game this season and has started 138 consecutive games. Although he’s been so durable, Gortat said that he bought an array of medical and training equipment for his house just in case he ever needed it. “Even a few weeks ago I said, ‘I spent all that money for that equipment and I’m never going to use it,’” he said laughing sarcastically.

Using that medical equipment wasn’t enough to console Gortat, who would have rather have left the equipment untouched and dusty. But the injured arch cuts short a season that has seen Gortat average 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds on 52-percent shooting from the field.

Now, for the foreseeable future, the “Polish Machine” will be forced to just lift weights with his upper body and relax. In fact, once the cast is applied Thursday, he will be unable to do anything for 72 hours.

In the meantime, the Suns are going to try to figure out what to do at center. With O’Neal still on an indefinite leave, Suns Head Coach Lindsey Hunter stated that he will most likely turn to power forward Luis Scola.

Scola is adept at playing with his back to the basket, as well as defending bigger opponents.

“He’s crafty and more capable of doing it for a more extended period of time,” Hunter said. “More than Keef (Markieff Morris) would be.”

Although, Hunter does expect Markieff Morris to get some minutes at center.

“Maybe if another team goes small, we’ll put him there,” Hunter said. “But I don’t want him getting too worn down against seven-footers. I don’t want him to have a steady diet of that.”

The other option would be to play newcomer Hamed Haddadi. At 7-2, he certainly fits the bill, but his conditioning has been an issue after only appearing in 14 games this season. “He’s not ready to play heavy minutes,” Hunter said after practice Thursday. “I think he’ll get some spot-minutes, but we don’t want to kill him. But he will see some time at the five also.”

The Suns’ first test without Gortat will come against the Kings in Sacramento on Friday.