BEIJING (Olympics) – Jorge Garbajosa’s season with the Toronto Raptors was ruined by injury but he never gave up hope of playing for Spain this summer at the Olympics.
After proving his fitness to new coach Aito Garcia Reneses, Garbajosa was included in the squad and his leadership and experience could prove vital as Los Chicos de Oro attempt to follow up their title at the 2006 FIBA World Championship with a gold medal in Beijing.
Garbajosa spoke to FIBA.com after Thursday’s 72-59 win over Germany.
FIBA: Jorge, it's fantastic to see you back on the court after a year out of action through injury. How challenging has the rehabilitation process been to make it to the Olympics?
Garbajosa: I have had to sweat a lot but sweating was not the hardest thing of all. What was really tough is that sometimes you felt bad, you had ups and downs and at times you didn't want to go to rehabilitation. But all is now over and done with. It's forgotten.
FIBA: With the serious leg injury that you suffered in mind, what are your emotions when you’re standing on the court at the Wukesong Arena here in Beijing?
Garbajosa: The Olympics is something very special for any athlete in the world, regardless of the sport you play in. Imagine when you have not been able to play for many months. For me to be here is a dream realized. It was one of my aims. I have worked very hard. Without the support from the Spanish Basketball Federation, from my team-mates and from my new club (BC Khimki in Russia), I wouldn't have made it.
FIBA: From a sporting sense, has it been challenging to get back in the flow of things with the national team?
Garbajosa: My role in the team has changed and I accept it with all the humility and sobriety. I have to do the best I can when I am on the court. If I play 40 minutes I will give everything I have just as if I play one minute.
FIBA: Jorge, Spain have beaten Greece, China and now Germany. Each of those games have been hard, though. What specifically does your team need to get better at?
Garbajosa: We knew it was going to be hard work. We are having problems with certain types of defenses. The important thing is that we learn and get better game by game against very difficult opponents.
FIBA: Is there a danger that Spain, because of all the success in recent years, could be overconfident?
Garbajosa: We have proved that we have a lot of confidence in ourselves and in our potential, but we respect all of our opponents.
FIBA: There is a lot of excitement back in Madrid and here in Beijing ahead of your game against Team USA on Saturday. Is this game more special for you and your team-mates than others?
Garbajosa: The game against Team USA is a game we are looking forward to playing just as any of the other games we have played. It's a beautiful contest because you are playing at the Olympics against a team made up of professional NBA players. But it's worth just two points as the rest of the games. We are enthusiastic about this game just we were enthusiastic about our previous games and about our future games.
FIBA: Spain shot just 60% (15 of 25) at the line against Germany. Are you worried about Spain’s free throw shooting, or shooting from the floor overall?
Garbajosa: With the talent we have in this team, the least of our worries is whether the ball goes in or not. We know that if we find good shooting positions, we play with rhythm, we can miss some shots and it's okay.
FIBA: Jorge, can you talk about Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez, two players who have been sensational so far in the tournament?
Garbajosa: I think both of them are not just future projects or upcoming players, they are absolute realities. They are very talented and intelligent players. They have played together at DKV Joventut and there is a good chemistry between them on the court. It's very easy to play with both of them because of their talent.