Rafał Tymiński: Why was your activity during the European Championships so little? “Basketball players are playing better and better, and Marcin Gortat is silent” – even such an observation was shared on social media by basketball fans.
Marcin Gortat: This silence is a bit of an exaggeration, because I just chose not to abuse Twitter. We had the e-Winner studio, where we discussed the events of the European Championships, so I really limited myself a bit with the entries. There is one thing I have to mention here, though – I’m in the United States right now and a couple of matches took place in the morning of my time. And the match with Ukraine was played even at such a time that I was still asleep. I watched them from a play, so I couldn’t even comment on anything on the fly. In general, however, I have found many times that much of what I am going to write is taken out of context. I simply did not want my entries to become a reason to make any unnecessary confusion, to look for sensation. It was not necessary for me or this team, where some of my teammates still play.
What emotions accompanied watching the performances of the Polish national team – first in the group round in Prague, and then in the knockout stage.
Huge and positive – I think this summary would be the most accurate on my part. The team wrote a beautiful story, because no one assumed that Poland could be among the top four EuroBasket teams. It’s a beautiful thing. We did not expect the national team to be so successful, because the fans had to worry about losing to Estonia or watching a match with Austria until recently. However, in recent days they had the opportunity to experience matches such as the one against Slovenia. Just a great job done in the European Championship. And it is appropriate to look at the game of individual players, the game of the entire team and the work of the entire training staff.
What was missing from the medal?
Sometimes there was no experience at this level, but this is normal for a team that shows up for the first time in the four. For example, you might consider whether our idea to play against Gobert was right, but I have no complaints.
Actually, only the Netherlands was a rival that you could be sure that we could handle him easily, and besides, we played with only strong or at least very solid teams. The Czechs are a very nice team that is probably not very appreciated in Poland. Finns – you know, they have a strong NBA player in their composition. The meeting with Israel was very nice in our performance. Then came the defeat of strong Ukraine, and finally Slovenia. At times a cosmic match! There are no objections to the defeats in the semi-finals and the match for 3rd place, because the team did not fail anything. He performed to the best of his abilities.
So this team is developing in the right direction?
Yes. And for me, it is equally important to know that the next EuroBasket group games will be held in Poland. And that is also a move in the right direction. The basketball players have done their job, now the union has to start promoting the event that will be held in our country. There has to be something really strong to accompany it. For now, PZKosz has made a very good decision to apply for the co-organization of this event in 2025.
Perhaps some will have to read this statement twice to believe that Marcin Gortat has a positive opinion about PZKosz.
And why should I not judge something positive when it is positive? Maybe some people think that I have no other activities than criticizing PZKosz, that I get up in the morning and think how to fuck them here. I have a lot of other fun things to do. However, if I want to speak up and say that I do not like something, I say or write that I do not like something. If I believe that a behavior or situation should be defined this way, I do so in a way that is consistent with my beliefs. For example, I do not think that the Polish Basketball Association was prepared for the fact that the team would achieve such good results, because there were no increased activities to promote basketball. It’s not about any special events anymore, but more could have been done to break through the domination of information about Robert Lewandowski or Iga Świątek. The activists slept. Not basketball journalists, but activists.
So are you ready, for example, for joint activities with PZKosz regarding the promotion of the European Championship in Poland?
I am really not prejudiced against anyone personally – I am not prejudiced against Radosław Piesiewicz either. I don’t have a scythe with him. I will not organize and will not organize any press conferences. But if the case of Adam Waczyński was not done well, I am talking about it. If in my opinion Marcel Ponitka also deserves to play in the national team, then as a free man I have the right to state publicly that Marcel deserves a place in the national team. And I say the same with the conviction that EuroBasket 2025 in Poland is a great thing for us and PZKosz did his best. However, I think President Piesiewicz will not be interested in joint activities.
And your relationship with Mateusz Ponitka?
With Mateusz, we differ in many ways, we certainly have different priorities and each of us has chosen a different path in life. However, I have no problem recognizing his very high basketball class. He is the leader of our team, He played a phenomenal match with Slovenia, he could be a leader in a great way. And nothing will take it from him, but does it mean that I cannot say that Mateusz did not play at the same level throughout the tournament? Because there were situations in which someone else took over the role of a key basketball player, because Mateusz did not perform well. There were times when he was brilliant, there were times when he did average. It’s nice that the team has shown that it is not dependent on his basketball player. Because this team was also pulled by other players – “Sokoł”, AJ, and at times by Olek Balcerowski.
Olek has to believe in himself and show this faith and strength on the dance floor, he cannot succumb to discouragement to such an extent, even if the situation does not develop as he intended. I have also had moments in my life where I was brought down to the ground floor, when I was put on the role of a guy who can’t handle serious basketball. For me, the best solution in such situations was strong training, so intense that after it there was no strength for anything. I believe that this is the best way to build character.
During the tournament, there were voices that the place of Mateusz Ponitka and Olek Balcerowski is in the NBA. These are the correct opinions?
They both played the tournament at a level that deserves attention and this is probably how they made another big step in their careers, bringing them closer to achieving their goals. I am not the general manager or club owner, but only a former NBA player. It is up to the heads of the clubs of the best basketball league in the world to decide on the involvement of a player. Both Mateusz and Aleksander write their history and I wish them to constantly raise their level, it will bring them success. And we enjoy watching the representatives of Poland at the highest level.
Polish basketball currently has three important elements – a place in four at the European Championship 2022, co-organization of EuroBasket 2025 and Jeremy Sochan, who will soon start his first season in the NBA. Are these values that mean that we should expect the next event with hopes for success? Sochan even wrote that we will play in the final in the next EuroBasket.
Certainly, Jeremy will be then – after three years – a player ready to play the role of the team leader. Judging reasonably, one should not expect that he will throw 40 points in every game and that he will have such an influence on our representation as Dirk Nowitzki on the German national team a few years ago. The guys can’t waste the time ahead of them. For me, the development of Łukasz Kolenda is very important. I would love to see him ready to take all responsibility for playing for the national team as soon as possible. In my opinion, Mateusz can play quite a lot in the role of “number one”, but we will need a classic quarterback who arranges the team game. Especially that in the future championship we are unlikely to see AJ, who will then be approaching his 40th birthday.
Which city will be the best for the group stage?
Probably it will not be considered an objective opinion, but in my opinion Łódź, because it has an excellent infrastructure and a very good location in the center of the country, which means the best access for fans. It is a pity that – as I hear – there is no chance that a suitable facility will be built in Warsaw by 2025. The climate suitable for basketball is also in Wrocław and the Tri-City. Well, maybe only the hall in Wrocław is a bit too small for the current requirements, because in 2009 we played group matches there. However, I am not convinced that Kraków or Gliwice would be a good solution. Of course, the fans will also come to the matches there, but there is no such basketball atmosphere in these two cities.