Game on for Garbo

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

The Raptors have given forward Jorge Garbajosa permission to play in the European basketball championships, but have done so with the proverbial gun at their head.

Garbajosa, who suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg and a torn ligament in his left ankle during a game in Boston last March, wants desperately to play for Spain at the European championship, which starts in Madrid today.

The Raptors, however, have advised the 6-foot-9 forward that surgery is the best option toward complete recovery. But Garbajosa, essentially, has thumbed his nose at their advice after being told by Spanish doctors that his injuries -- which are not fully healed based on test results done in Toronto earlier this summer -- can be treated by non-surgical means.

Garbajosa is taking the Spanish doctors' advice, and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is not happy with that decision. However, Colangelo finally granted the Spanish team veteran permission to play yesterday after the Spanish basketball federation obtained adequate insurance -- reportedly to be one of the most expensive premiums in the history of European basketball. According to sources, the policy is worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and would cover the Raptors if he aggravates his injury while playing at the championship.

The Raptors would prefer if Garbajosa sits out the tournament, has surgery and then rehabs in time to join the team for part of the 2007-08 NBA season. But Garbajosa's priority right now is playing for Spain, which acts as a qualifying event for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. What's particularly frustrating for the Raptors is that Spain already has qualified for Beijing, by winning the world championships last year. Garbajosa, basically, wants to play because the tournament is on home soil and the fact that the national team never has won the European championship.

"We're dealing with a very proud player here," said Maurizio Gherardini, the Raptors assistant GM, when reached in Spain. "We have advised him that there is still something (in his leg) that should be taken care of (through surgery). We've tried to make him aware off the risks (of playing). But he feels likes he is back."


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