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02/02/2011 SUNS 92, Bucks 77

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02/04/2011 SUNS vs Thunder, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
02/07/2011 SUNS @ Warriors, 8:30 p.m., My45
02/10/2011 SUNS vs Warriors, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona

Marcin Gortat has found his stride in Phoenix. Photo by Barry Gossage/Getty Images.

In his first three-and-a-half years in the league, Marcin Gortat had six double-doubles. In his last eight games, he’s doubled that number.

While playing in Orlando, Gortat saw limited minutes as he backed up arguably the best center in the NBA, Dwight Howard. It was in those limited minutes that Gortat showed flashes of what could be in a larger role and often had him touted as the best backup center in the Association. Needless to say, the Polish Hammer was very excited to join a Phoenix Suns team that for as long as I can remember has been searching for that one true center that could actually have a positive impact on the game.

Now that Marcin is finally getting regular playing time, he is proving that the speculation about how good he could be given the opportunity may have been right. In fact, he may actually be better than advertised.

When the Suns acquired Gortat from the Orlando Magic in a multiplayer deal, he was pegged as a good defender and rebounder with limited offensive moves. Having seen very little of his game myself, I pictured him as a big, lumbering guy that would not be very mobile or athletic.

Boy, have I been wrong. Since joining the Suns, Gortat has proven to be quite the athlete. On the defensive end he moves his feet very well. He’s able to cover a lot of ground by getting out and helping apply pressure on guards and still get back to rebounding position — something the Suns have lacked for quite some time. He’s a pretty solid post defender and even though he doesn’t necessarily block a ton of shots, he does force players into taking tougher shots.

On the other end of the floor is where Gortat has really been a pleasant surprise. Before arriving in the Valley, Gortat had never scored more than 16 points in a game. Not only has he matched that, he recently had a stretch of three straight games in which he set a new career high each night out.

The Polish Hammer has turned out to be a great pick-and-roll mate for Steve Nash, able to finish around the basket and hit a 15-foot jumper on a regular basis. Gortat clearly loves to play with Nash, recently joking that he was going to help Nash win another MVP and move him back to the number one spot in assists, stating that while Boston’s Rajon Rondo is great, he’s not better than Nash.

Coming in with career averages of 4 points and 4 rebounds, Gortat has raised his averages to 10 and 7 with Phoenix. His numbers continued to go up, as he’s averaged 16 and 9 in his last five games. If Gortat keeps playing at this high level, there’s certainly a good chance that Nash’s assists numbers will continue to rise as well, but more importantly the team will pick up more wins and have a chance to get back in the playoff hunt.