Marcin Gortat suffered a right foot injury in a March 6 game against the Toronto Raptors, sidelining him for at least three weeks. The injury report got worse, as the Arizona Republic reported Gortat could miss the entire season, a huge blow for the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns were already short-handed at center with Channing Frye out for the season with an enlarged heart. Their options at center aren’t so promising, as they would likely move Luis Scola to center. Jermaine O’Neal returned to the Suns March 13 and their only other center is Hamed Haddadi.
The Suns will miss Gortat’s production at center. He averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He played in 182 consecutive games for the Suns. Considering where Phoenix is in the standings, last in both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, Phoenix would be wise to keep Gortat out.
Who will step up in Gortat’s absence?
Scola’s production went down at a bad time. He’s averaging his worst season since his rookie year, only scoring 12.2 points and grabbing 6.2 rebounds a game. Scola hasn’t played more than 13 minutes in the past three games, spanning from March 13-16. All were losses to the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards in that order.
Haddadi barely had playing time before Gortat’s injury. However, he stepped up in a March 11 loss over the Nuggets. Haddadi scored 13 points with eight rebounds and two blocks that game.
Maybe Haddadi can fill the void in Gortat’s injury. However, he needs to do better. His 2.2 points per game doesn’t cut it. With O’Neal starting at center, Haddadi probably won’t see that much playing time.
O’Neal is averaging eight points and 5.3 rebounds in two games with the Suns. He came through despite losing to Atlanta and Washington. He scored 18 and grabbed five boards in a 107-94 loss to Atlanta March 15. O’Neal then recorded 12 points and eight rebounds on a March 16 loss to the Wizards 127-105.
O’Neal can help Scola and Haddadi mature as big men. Though, O’Neal’s best days are behind him as a player, he can assume the role of mentor to both Scola and Haddadi. O’Neal a 16-year veteran, was an All-Star and a key player for the Indiana Pacers. O’Neal can provide years of experience to Scola and Haddadi, which could help the Suns in the long haul.
It appears the season is a lost cause for the Suns. O’Neal can rally round what’s left to Scola and Haddadi and in return, these three can fill the void left in Gortat’s absence.