Magic’s Gortat honors Polish president

CLEVELAND (AP)Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat had more important issues on his mind Sunday than basketball.

The native of Poland paid tribute to his homeland’s president, who was

killed along with 95 others in a plane crash in Russia. Gortat wrote

the number of the fatal flight on his sneakers before the Magic played

the Cleveland Cavaliers and wrote President Lech Kaczynski’s name on

the tape around his wrist.

“It’s very sad,”

Gortat said. “There were a lot of people putting our country on the

right path to become one of the strongest and most powerful countries

in Europe. Obviously, we pray for them.”

Kaczynski and dozens of political, military and religious leaders were

killed in the crash. They were traveling to Russia to honor 22,000

Polish officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940.

Gortat’s father, Janusz, is a retired Army officer who knew Kaczynski

before he became president in 2005. Gortat, who learned of the crash

through multiple text messages from family and friends in Poland, said

he knew “two or three” of the dignitaries who died.

“It’s a tough loss for all of us,” he said.

Received 04/11/10 02:16 pm ET