When the Phoenix Suns traded Marcin Gortat, along with guards Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee Friday to the Washington Wizards, only four players from last season’s team were left on the roster.
Those four — Goran Dragic, Markieff and Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker — are part of the foundation that will make up the obvious rebuild job that general manager Ryan McDonough is piecing together.
And now, with Gortat gone, the Suns’ hopes of winning more than a couple dozen basketball games seem even bleaker, with some suggesting the squad may flirt with their franchise-low win total of 16, set back 1968-69 — the year of their inception. Gortat, to those who had held out hope for a 25-plus win season, became the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ Friday.
First-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, however, took it upon himself to remind the media that his team was made up of more than just Gortat and the three others traded to the Wizards.
“Obviously, Marcin was a great player who really could run the floor,” Hornacek told the media Saturday.
“I think this opens up opportunities for other guys. We’ll stay in that spread offense and (run) a lot of pick and rolls. Guys like (Miles) Plumlee will be able to roll to the basket and get a lot of opportunities.”
With Gortat’s departure, offseason acquisition Miles Plumlee, along with first-round pick Alex Len and fellow center Channing Frye — who is returning to action after sitting out last season with an enlarged heart condition — are expected to fill the Suns’ frontcourt. Plumlee is the projected starter as the Suns ease Len, who is recovering from an ankle surgery, and Frye into action.
The second-year pro played in just 14 games with the Indiana Pacers last season prior to joining the Suns following Summer League. In those games, he averaged just under four minutes, which suggests that Gortat’s departure will sting all the more.
And while the absence of Gortat, Hornacek’s tone later suggests, is far from optimum, the coach maintains positivity, declaring that his team will make do.
“It’s a tough business,” Hornacek went on. “You just do what you can with the guys you have. And we think the guys we have can fill in for him.
“We’re still out there trying to win every game we can.”
Everyone around the Suns knows that the rebuilding is well underway. Even Hornacek himself, optimistic as he may be, hints at that.
But the organization repeats its same platitudes regarding winning nonetheless.
And winning, Hornacek says, is the most integral part of the rebuild. That’s the destination, and the Suns are hoping to arrive sooner rather than later.
“If all guys play together and play hard and then you add a piece or two, you can get back to winning ways pretty quickly,” the coach said.
“That’s all of our hopes – that we can do it in a year or two and this is a great year for us to really start that.”