Gortat Prospers From Rejections

Posted: November 13, 2012

In order to get somewhere in life, you can’t be afraid of rejection. That certainly applies to Suns center Marcin Gortat.

Coming into this season, instead of taking charges, Gortat pledged that he would increase the amount of times he rejected opponents’ shot attempts. Thus far, his strategy is working.

Through eight games, the “Polish Hammer” is tied with the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka for the league lead in blocks at 3.63 a game. This is huge jump forward for Gortat, whose 1.5 blocks per game average allowed him to finish 16th in the league in blocks last season.

“I’m just trying to be more aggressive from the defensive end and protect the rim,” Gortat said. “I understand that once in a while I’m going to get dunked on. I have to realize that.”

Due to Gortat’s exploits, the Suns currently rank first in the league in blocks as a team. That is a feat the club has never accomplished.

The closest that the Suns have ever come was during the 2007-08 season, when they averaged 6.32 blocks a game, finishing second in the league overall. And if Gortat were to become the league leader this season, it would also mark the first time a Sun has ever achieved that honor.

Former Suns forward Larry Nance, who holds the Suns record with 217 blocks in one season, finished fourth in the league with that total during the 1982-83 season. In hopes of breaking that record, Gortat spent his offseason improving his leg strength, jumping ability and agility.

Suns strength and conditioning coach Mike Elliot worked with the six-year veteran on his lower-body strength and explosiveness.

“There were a lot of people complaining about me taking charges, which in my opinion, is not bad,” Gortat said of last season. “But at the same time, I should have more blocks. As a seven-foot big man with my ability to jump and move, I shouldn’t finish the season with a (one-block-a-game average).”

Since blocking shots is not really a technique you can work on in drills, Gortat was able to benefit from focusing on that part of his game by making 20 appearances over the summer with the Polish National Team. By being mindful of his defensive rotations and watching lots of tape, the big man has been able to make shotblocking a habit to carry over into this season.

“It’s something I’m focused on,” Gortat said. “It’s not the priority, but it has to be better than last year.”

Thus far this season, the 28-year-old center has three games of five or more blocks in eight contests. The last time the Suns had a player with three such games in an entire season was during the 2007-08 campaign.

Gortat's improvement goes to show that rejection can make you stronger; and transversely, becoming stronger can make you better at doling out rejection.

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