A no-win situation

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The Raptors news release was distributed about an hour before last night's game.

"Jorge Garbajosa completed an examination with Dr. Mark Myerson, of Baltimore, on Monday afternoon. Dr. Myerson's report concurs with the recommendation of the Toronto Raptors medical staff that Garbajosa's injury requires further surgery.

"No surgery date has been determined and no timing has been established for a return to basketball activity. Garbajosa will remain on the inactive list indefinitely."

That's the news, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of the story, a story that began last March when Garbajosa snapped his left leg like a twig in a game in Boston.

In the intervening eight months, the story has taken many twists and turns and is far from over.

Essentially, it's a tale of wildly differing opinions. Last summer, after examining Garbajosa's leg, the Raptors asked the player to have more surgery because they felt it was not mending properly. Not only did Garbajosa disagree, but he also asked for permission to play for Spain in the European championships being hosted in Spain.

The Raps balked but this was a no-win position. Caught between a rock and a hard place, they eventually agreed, providing Spain would insure the player's $4-million contract for this season. So Garbajosa played for his country. But when the player showed up for camp this fall, it was clear to most observers he was not in fine fettle.

Now he's inactive and the future course of events is uncertain. It's kind of sad, because there are no bad guys in this soap opera.

Garbajosa loses in a variety of ways. He is destined to lose an entire NBA season. Yes, he'll get his money, either from the Raptors directly or through the insurance policy but he never can get this year back. He's a warrior who wants only to play.

When he came to Toronto last season, he had signed a three-year contract, his first in North America. Last season, prior to his devastating injury, he had established himself as a player and brought a level of toughness, both mental and physical to the Raptors, valuable commodities in the pro game. By missing this season and with next year in some doubt, his next contract, either with Toronto or another NBA team (he'll be a restricted free agent) is probably going to be less lucrative.

But Garbajosa isn't about the money. He's about the playing and it kills him to sit, especially when he genuinely believes he's healthy.

The Raptors also are big losers. Their original reluctance to let Garbajosa play for Spain was based on the medical belief that the player needed further surgery to repair that badly broken leg. That belief has now been confirmed. If the surgery had occurred in the summer, Garbajosa conceivably could have been back playing, fully healthy, by the middle of this season.

Now the Raps have no idea when Garbajosa will be ready to play again. They can't force him to have surgery but they don't believe he's healthy enough to play. Complicating matters is the insurance issue. The Raptors and the European company that holds the policy purchased by Spanish basketball will have to come to some sort of resolution.

Spanish basketball paid a $1-million premium on a policy to cover Garbajosa's $4-million salary. Now Toronto, believing that the player incurred further injury by playing for Spain, wants to invoke the policy. That's just business. What they really want is a healthy Garbajosa setting a hard-nosed example for his teammates. Yes, Spain won its much-coveted European championship at home but it cost them a $1-million insurance premium. Even the insurance company probably will lose, if they have to pay Garbajosa's $4-million salary.

The Raptors are being painted as the bad guys in some precincts of the Spanish media. The home folks believe Garbajosa to be perfectly healthy and that the Raptors are simply punishing him for defying their wishes that he not play for Spain. The Raps also are being accused of chasing the insurance money.

The sad truth is that Garbajosa is just not the player he was last season and whether he wants to admit it or not, he likely needs the surgery.

To this point, according to sources, there is no deep-seated rift between Garbajosa and the Raptors. He still wants to play for them and they want the same thing, though they want him in a healthy state.

For that to happen, he eventually will have to give in and accept that further surgery is necessary.

This story still has legs. Wherever those legs take it, the suspicion is it will be nowhere good for anyone.


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