Dave Feschuk is in Treviso covering the Toronto Raptors at training camp.
When Spain held the European basketball championships last month, they advertised the tournament with large billboards bearing the image of some of the most famous members of the resident national team, the reigning world champions.
So there he was on the side of a building: Jorge Garbajosa dressed in a conquistador’s helmet and sword. And there was the caption, loosely translated: "The crown is at stake."
"That’s to give you the picture. He is the warrior. And that’s why people love him … That’s his nature. He’s not going to hold back," said Maurizio Gherardini, the Raptors assistant general manager. "Garbo is a very special person. If you remember, we were talking about him a year ago and I was telling you, this guy has no fear of anything. And he showed you after his injury, what I meant a year ago. It’s not a surprise. You just cannot hold the guy back."
Indeed, Garbajosa has been playing on a broken left leg since the Raptors gave him consent to play for Spain in the Euro tourney – this after the Spanish federation forked out the cash for an insurance policy with a premium of about $1 million (U.S.). The leg – specifically the fibula - is still broken, the result of his horrific season-ending fall in Boston in March, and doctors have told the Raptors that it is unlikely to heal without corrective surgery. But Garbajosa has exercised his right to refuse the procedure. And so he’s just another player on the training camp floor – albeit one whose lower legs are wrapped in medical compression socks and an alarming amount of tape.
"I am running like all of my teammates, I am jumping like them," said Garbajosa the other day. "So I don’t think I have to take the surgery."
The actuarials will tell you, it’s unlikely this will end well. And the Raptors, though they are secure in the knowledge that they’re economically protected should Garbajosa reinjure his leg, will have a difficult time replacing Garbajosa’s unique skill set should he fall. Still, it’s difficult not to marvel at Garbajosa’s seize-the-day zeal.
"He’s a man all the way," said Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors general manager. "As much as he may be limited physically, whether it’s because of injury or just because that’s just what he’s been gifted with athletically his entire life, he’s just the kind of player who makes a team better. Every team he’s played on, he’s been considered the glue guy. Mike D’Antoni (who coached Garbajosa here in Italy) told me countless times in Phoenix, he wasn’t my best player, but he was the reason we won championships. It’s obvious what he did for our team last year. It’s obvious we were missing that component down the stretch and in the playoffs. It’s great to have him back on the floor."