New Raptor a fighter

The Toronto Raptors like the flexibility Jorge Garbajosa brings to their lineup after signing the...

The Toronto Raptors like the flexibility Jorge Garbajosa brings to their lineup after signing the Spaniard to a multi-year contract on Monday. (Photo courtesy Toronto Raptors)

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

Don't expect newest Raptor Jorge Garbajosa to pull a "Hillenbrand" and pout about playing time. At least that's according to Raptors vice-president and assistant general manager Maurizio Gherardini.

"He'll be happy knowing and understanding that he has a value on this team," Gherardini said. "He's humble. He won't be the kind of guy who will be demanding minutes."

The Raptors announced yesterday they had signed the 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward to a multi-year contract, reported to be for three years and $12 million US.

The Raptors like the experience, leadership and toughness Garbajosa brings to an increasingly crowded bench.

PLAYED IN ITALY

Gherardini knows Garbajosa well -- the 28-year-old Spaniard played four seasons for Benetton Basket Treviso of the Italian league from 2000-01 to 2003-04, the team Gherardini headed up as general manager before he took the Raptors job in June. Garbajosa won two Italian National Cups with Benetton.

"Maurizio knows what I can bring to the team," Garbajosa said. "I like to play hard."

Garbajosa also has been what Gherardini described as the "key guy" on the Spanish national team, dating back to the 2000 Olympics, a higher calibre of play that Gherardini said will help Garbajosa adjust to the NBA game.

Why Garbajosa chose to wait until he was 28 to make the move to the NBA is another question. After Garbajosa led Unicaja Malaga to the 2005-06 league championship and Spanish National Cup, where he has played the past two years -- as well as taking home his second consecutive Spanish Cup final MVP -- Garbajosa finally found the confidence to join the NBA, according to Gherardini.

Garbajosa broke what Gherardini said was a "lucrative" four-year contract in Europe to come to Toronto.

The Raptors like the flexibility he brings to their lineup.

"He brings an aggressive attitude, but in a good way," Gherardini said. "He'll protect the younger guys on the team. He'll fight anybody. He has size to go up against guys in the paint without being afraid. He can take the three-pointer and still play his man back to the basket."

Gherardini also felt Garbajosa's presence might benefit fellow Spaniard Jose Calderon, the Raptors point guard whose play slipped noticeably toward the end of last season. Both Garbajosa and Calderon are in Europe with the Spanish national team, tuning up for the world championship in Japan in August and September.

"Jose looked like he was losing confidence during the second part of last season," Gherardini said. "Having a national team teammate will help (Jose) give us the best game he can."

Meanwhile, Raptors star Chris Bosh will find out today whether he will be one of 15 players travelling to Asia with the U.S. national team for pre-world championship exhibition games.

Bosh, who has a good chance to be a starter at the world championship, is not expected to be one of four cuts today at U.S. training camp in Las Vegas.


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