Let’s go back a couple of summers when BC took the reigns of this team. Every single Raps fan was suddenly excited about the future of their beloved Raps. We the arrival of Colangelo suddenly the Toronto Raptors were relevant again.
Then something bizarre happened. That something bizarre was the signing of Jorge Garbajosa.
For most the first question that was asked was "Who?"
That question was a fair one even for the most avid Raptors fan. When the signing was first announced we here at the HQ scoured the web to figure out who this mystery man was. The results based on our research were mixed.
Just weeks after the signing we had our first opportunity to really watch and focus in on the Raptors newest million dollar man. It was time for the World Championships. Suddenly this tournament took on a whole new meaning for Raps fans as guys like Calderon, Garbo, Rasho and others were all key parts of their respective teams. The problem was, after the tournament there were still more questions than answers about the "Garbage Man". We were legitimately concerned, despite Spain’s big win.
When Jorge first donned a Raptors jersey people remained sceptical. By all accounts Garbo essentially looked like that older guy who continued to play pick-up ball at your local YMCA - shaggy hair, average athleticism and all. Many of you have to admit you never expected squat from this guy and early returns were not exactly spectacular, hell they may have even been a little sub-par.
As the season progressed however, Raptors fans started to see what BC and Gheradini had hoped for when they inked this 28 year old rookie. Garbo started to get more comfortable, he was in the starting line-up, and the results looked more and more promising as the season wore on.
Late in the 2006-07 season he put up 22 against the Nuggets was doing a solid job on the glass on a nightly basis. Perhaps more importantly however, was that he was playing smart basketball. Each game you could count on Garbo taking a change, roughing up the other teams SF, and believe it or not more than a steal a game. In the 69 games he played he averaged 8.5 ppg, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals. These numbers are strikingly similar to those put up by Jamario Moon this season.
Of course Moon and Garbo couldn’t be any more different. One relies on his raw athleticism while the other relies on his grey matter and knowledge of the game. Garbo played with his head. He could force people to leave their feet, force the defence to react and make the smart play time and time again. Rarely did he force a shot, turn the ball over or play outside his comfort zone. He was a steady hand. Garbo wasn’t the sort of player that you would see on the highlights later that night. His influence on the game however was usually never in doubt.
As the season wore on fans started to appreciate what Garbo brought to the table and we here at the HQ and others started to call him the "x-factor". How Garbo played we thought, would have a tremendous impact on how far this team went in the post-season. With a possible first round match-up with the Nets many of us truly believed that Garbo could make life tough on Vince Carter on both ends of the court. He was tough, capable offensively, and posed an interesting match-up.
Then suddenly, everything changed. A gruesome injury on the floor of the Boston Garden slammed the door shut on Garbo’s season. So long "x-factor". So long steady hand.
Since that injury Jorge has become an afterthought. After the injury there was some hope that Garbo would make a full return. His playing in the Olympic Qualifier seemed like a good indication that he was ready to contribute to the Raps in the 07-08 season. Although there was some dispute over just "how" healthy he was things looked better than one would have expected given the look on Al Jefferson’s face when Jorge originally went down.
Unfortunately the questions surrounding Jorge’s health have lingered. After playing in the summer of 07 for the Spanish team, when the NBA season started up again things went sour quickly. Garbo played less than 10 games and then was shut down again. People then forgot about Jorge Garbajosa.
What’s interesting is when you look back on the season past Garbo’s disappearance had a tremendous impact on the season. The best example of this is with regards to Jamario Moon.
Without Garbo’s injury there likely wouldn’t have been a Jamario Moon story to tell. I also can’t help but wonder how different the playoff match-up would have been against the Magic. In my opinion the Raps would have had more success with Jorge manning the three against Hedo than Moon. Would the Raps have won the series? Unlikely in my opinion (as I discussed on the site I expected a 4-1 result) but it would have been a better contested battle. In fact his steady play would have been more than welcome at many points during the season.
Now it looks like Garbo won’t be coming back at all. What was a three year commitment essentially boiled down to one full season of play. The return on this investment was not as was hoped. Years from now when you look back at this era of Raptors basketball Garbo will be nothing more than a blip on the radar. Besides these will be known as the times when CB4 made the Raptors his own.
What is disappointing is that many of the characteristics he showed on the court are those that this team is searching for this off-season.
It’s like we barely knew the guy, and that’s a shame.
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