ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Getting paid $34 million to back up Dwight Howard on the Orlando Magic for the next five years might sound like a good gig.
It's just that Marcin Gortat was looking forward to having the chance to start for the Dallas Mavericks.
The Magic surprised — and disappointed — Gortat and the Mavericks on Monday, matching an offer sheet to keep the Polish big man.
Gortat's agent, Guy Zucker, said the center "was definitely very disappointed today." He said Gortat was back in his native Poland, where he'd already been telling everyone he was headed to the Mavericks.
Gortat was hoping to play alongside Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki and, most of all, compete with Erick Dampier for the starting job. Dampier is going into the final year of his contract.
In Orlando, Gortat will likely see spotty playing time behind Howard.
"It was definitely about the opportunity to find out how good he can really be," Zucker said. "We had requested that Orlando not match the offer. We stated the fact that he sincerely wanted the chance to carve his own path, be his own man, so to speak, which is not going to be realistically possible in Orlando."
Gortat averaged 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in about 12 minutes per game last season. Gortat's return solidifies the Magic frontcourt for next season, with the team signing former Mavericks power forward Brandon Bass last week.
"Having quality big men is an absolute must in our league, and Marcin has worked very hard to fit into that category," Magic general manager Otis Smith said in a statement. "He provides tremendous depth to our frontcourt and we're happy to bring him back."
Fresh off their second trip to the NBA finals, the Magic have showed this offseason they are willing to spend. Gortat's re-signing coupled with the acquisition for Vince Carter from New Jersey will force Orlando to dip into the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.
The move is also another sign that Orlando believes its time to win is now.
Gortat, the 6-foot-11, 240-pound center, made about $700,000 last season, his first full year in the NBA. But Gortat earned the big pay raise in large part because of a few stellar playoff moments.
Gortat filled in for Howard in the Game 6 clincher against Philadelphia in the opening round after Orlando's All-Star was suspended, adding a few powerful dunks that earned him the nickname the "Polish Hammer" from teammates. He also had a pair of blocks on Cleveland's LeBron James in the conference finals, and he saw his minutes increase in the finals because of the size of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The chance to compete for a title with the Magic offers little consolation.
"But on the other hand, the Mavericks are in a position to challenge for the finals as well," Zucker said. "We thought Dallas represented a perfect situation for him."
AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Dallas contributed to this story.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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