Raps show Garbo lots of love

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Apparently, some good did come out of Jorge Garbajosa's injury. Now that his season is over, the rookie forward no longer has to lug his Sponge Bob knapsack around, like the two other rookies on the team (Andrea Bargnani and Uros Slokar).

At the beginning of the season, the three rooks where given Sponge Bob knapsacks and instructed that they have to carry them around with the team at all times.

Kidding aside (although the knapsacks were the real deal), Garbajosa, who underwent surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle joint after falling hard in Boston on March 26, last night made his first appearance in front of the media since his accident land spoke about how the support of his teammates made the last few weeks bearable.

"You have to be in this locker room to feel what kind of relationship we have with each other. The first thing after the injury, I just wanted to come here to see my teammates because I love them," he said. "They gave me a lot of support when I was at home (recovering), they came to my house to see how I was, calling me, sending me messages ... I can say they are more than my teammates, they are my friends.

"The national Spanish team (2006 world champions) was really, really special, but here you can see that everybody is trying to help each other and give support to their teammates, not only players, but coaches, medical staff, the GM ... everybody is pushing in the same direction. And that's great for us as people and for us as a team," Garbajosa added.

The laid-back rookie, who had averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds before going down, had special words for his countryman and Raptors teammate Jose Calderon, who has acted almost as a personal assistant, wheeling Garbajosa around and taking him for lunch and to the ACC.

"He's always taken care of me," said Garbajosa, who expects to be in the lineup for training camp next fall. "But now in a very special way he helps me a lot. Not only pushing the wheelchair, but talking to me and a being by my side when I was a little bit frustrated."

Garbajosa, who also suffered a fractured fibula and ligament tear, said he was particularly touched when, after making his first appearance in locker room last week since suffering the injury, his teammates presented him with some gifts. Many of Garbajosa's teammates expressed admiration for his toughness when he refused to be put under during surgery on his leg but insisted on a local anesthetic.

ISIAH LIKES THE NETS

Former Raptors GM Isiah Thomas, now the coach of the Knicks, believes the New Jersey Nets may be the darkhorse of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"I think Jersey is going to give anybody a tough time," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me at all if they made a Finals run. Those three guys (Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson), when they put their hat on and they come to get it, chances are they're going to get it."


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