Marcin Gortat Through Polish Eyes
The Phoenix Suns’ New Sensation, As Seen Through the Eyes of Polish Journalist Lukasz Ceglinski
Polish Journalist Lukasz Ceglinski at U.S. Airways Center, Jan. 25, 2011.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 14, 2011 — A few weeks ago, sitting in the press overflow section at U.S. Airways Center, I sneaked a peek at the computer of the guy sitting next to me.
Nothing strange at first, as many people are tweeting at Suns games these days. But then I noticed that these tweets were not in English, but Polish. This guy was here covering the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat.
We chatted as well as possible, for although he definitely speaks English, it is hard enough to understand someone who has English as their first language when inside the arena on a game night.
Anyway, after the game was over, he wrote down his e-mail address and I was finally able to make out his name: Lukasz Ceglinski. He works for a Polish Newspaper as well as their companion website, sport. pl.
He graciously gave us some time to talk about Marcin Gortat, the Polish basketball scene and what he thinks of Phoenix.
MT: Gortat got his start with ŁKS Łódź. How competitive is the basketball team and what American level could you compare that to?
Lukasz Ceglinski: Very hard question, because ŁKS is not even playing in the Polish first division, which is called Tauron Basket Liga. Let me put it in this way — Polish champion, Asseco Prokom Gdynia, went to Euroleague quaterfinals last year and had Qyntel Woods, Daniel Ewing and David Logan in their team. Most teams from TBL don't have any chance to compete with Prokom, so imagine how good — or rather bad — must be ŁKS, who is unsuccessfully fighting for promotion from second division for a few years. The other thing is that when Gortat was playing for ŁKS, he did it only on junior teams. So to answer your question — it cannot be compared to any American level, I think.
MT: How about the German league, Basketball Bundesliga?
Lukasz Ceglinski: RheinEnergie Cologne, where Gortat was playing for four years, was a team on the rise during his span, 2003-07. They've won the German Cup three times and were the champions of Germany. They were playing in the Euroleague but they won only two of 14 games and were one of the two worst teams in 2006-07. Right after that, power company RheinEnergie stopped giving money for the team and in 2008 the club announced it was insolvent.
MT: Who are some of the best young players in Poland right now with the best chances of making to the NBA?
Lukasz Ceglinski: There are not many of them. In 2010 in the final of U17 World Championships in Germany, Poland lost only one game — to the U.S, in the final. There are few guys from this team who have a chance to fight for the NBA. Przemyslaw Karnowski and Mateusz Ponitka are considered as the best prospects. They are both born in 1993. Other names? If I had to, I'd mention Jakub Wojciechowski, Tomasz Nowakowski or Olek Czyz, but it would be very, very hard for them.
MT: When was the first time you heard about Gortat and was he always thought of as an NBA talent?
Lukasz Ceglinski: We first heard about him when he started to play for RheinEnergie Cologne — play and not only practice. I haven't considered him as a future NBA player and I think that there were not many people in Poland who thought he could make it.
MT: Much has been made here about how famous the Gortat name is in Poland since Marcin’s father, Janusz, was an Olympic boxer and his mother was an Olympic volleyball player. How accurate is that?
Lukasz Ceglinski: His father was bigger athlete than his mother. Janusz Gortat not only made Olympics twice, he was bronze medalist in 1972 and 1976. In the second tournament he lost in the semifinal to Leon Spinks. He's undoubtedly one of the best boxers in Polish history. Alicja Gortat was playing for volleyball national team, but the team was not so good in the 1970s.
MT: When was the first time you came over to the U.S. in order to cover him?
Lukasz Ceglinski: NBA Finals in 2009, when his Orlando Magic was playing against Los Angeles Lakers. When we saw that Gortat was playing significant minutes against the 76ers, Cavaliers and Celtics, we've made the decision to go to Orlando for three games there in the Finals.
MT: What town do you like better, Phoenix or Orlando?
Lukasz Ceglinski: Hard to compare without mentioning basketball. I felt great hype about basketball in Orlando because of the Finals. Midseason moments in Phoenix were not so heated although Gortat played his best games in NBA during my stay in Arizona. The towns are similar, I think — sunny, not so big... But it's hard to compare.