Keeping Marcin Gortat priority for Wizards

lastname Gortat The Washington Wizards, given their druthers, would love to prevent starting center Marcin Gortat from getting to free agency in July.

According to the latest whispers out of the nation's capital, Gortat has been presented with the option of signing a contract extension between now and June 30 by the Wizards, who acquired the Polish big man from Phoenix just days before the season started in late October.

The Wizards, though, are apparently resigned to the idea that Gortat will become a free agent July 1 after playing out the final season of his current contract, which is valued at $7.27 million.

The reality is that Gortat -- who on Friday night makes his return to Phoenix for the first time to take on the Suns -- will almost certainly score more favorable contract terms if he waits until the offseason.

But Washington, I'm told, is determined to fend off the competition this summer and regards re-signing Gortat as a top priority. He's averaging 12.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the Wizards as one of the key cogs, along with the rise of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal and his frontcourt partnership with the bruising Nene, that has thrust the Wiz into the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs in the downtrodden Eastern Conference.

The Wizards had to part with the injured Emeka Okafor -- who also possesses an expiring contract valued at $14.5 million -- along with a top-12 protected pick in the June draft for Gortat.