“Lorenzo Brown? We do not enter into bar debates”

Jorge Garbajosa (Torrejón de Ardoz, 1977) knows that this will not be an easy Eurobasket for the National Team, but also that none is and that the effort and work of Sergio Scariolo’s team can be taken for granted. The president of the Spanish Federation (FEB) analyzes with AS the sensations before the championship, the absences, the level of the rivals and, of course, the strong controversy that caused the nationalization of Lorenzo Brown.

The Eurobasket arrives as the culmination of a summer that has been triumphant for the quarry: eight finals in eight championships for our teams. Do you feel it as a support after the model and the commitment to training categories were questioned after the nationalization of Lorenzo Brown?

We try to be responsible and not enter into debates that are of the bar and social networks, even if some union president does fall into them. You invest so much money and so much time, there are so many people working for years, results like the ones we are getting… At a time like this, and with the wave of injuries we’ve had, to think that nationalizing a player doesn’t work on training or leaves other players without room, seems to me absolutely absurd.

Andreas Zagklis, FIBA ​​Secretary General, has defended this policy of a naturalized player spot.

It is an absolutely legal resource, the only thing we have done has been to follow a FIBA ​​rule, just as many other teams, large and small, have done. I understand that there are discussions of networks and bars, without a deep understanding of this. And they are respectable, but it bothers me a lot that there are those who come to give their opinion to make noise when they are not working for training basketball and you are leaving your soul. It is a sweet and very grateful debate for networks, but it does not correspond to reality. It seems to me the most interested populism and lacks depth and content that I have seen in my life. I can’t close the door, also in a moment of absolute need, to a player who wants to be there, who makes a brutal effort to be there. In addition, and after a month working with him, I can say that Lorenzo is an exceptional person and professional.

The companions of the National Team say that he has adapted wonderfully, of course.

It can be seen on a daily basis. He has an exquisite education, he has integrated perfectly. He has been very respectful with the captains, with the people who have been there the longest. He has been, especially the first few days, with his eyes open, learning on the field and also in terms of coexistence, methodology, travel… what this family of which we talk so much, and in which he has been entering with great care until he is a full member. The team has welcomed him with open arms, for his human quality and for his sporting ability. In the end, what we want is to win, to be competitive, to have a group coexistence that allows us to be stronger on the field later. And Lorenzo has not only adapted, but he is being a very, very important asset both on and off the court.

We are, after a long preparation, at the gates of the Eurobasket. We know the situation, the conditions, the injuries… but what are the sensations in this final stretch?

I would like to emphasize one thing that seems important to me when talking about the absence of the Gasol brothers and Sergio Rodríguez. They are three totems of Spanish basketball, historical ones that we will remember all our lives, and of course they are important casualties. But, to be honest, we had them. We knew this was going to happen and we have nothing but eternal gratitude for all the work they have done for Spanish basketball. But what puts us in a very important situation of difficulty are the injuries of players called not only to be, but to have a role of extreme importance.

Ricky Rubio kept the Eurobasket door open until he was injured.

We started with Ricky, then Carlos Alocén, now unfortunately Sergio Llull again. Also Abrines, Abalde, Claver, Aldama… we are talking about up to eight players with an important role in the National Team and with whom we will not be able to count. The situation is complicated. As the FIBA ​​Secretary General has said, this may be the highest level European Championship, and it is certainly the most open, in history. There’s Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Jokic, Sabonis, Gobert, Larkin… It’s a maximum level, extreme competitiveness. And we are in a very difficult moment, not so much because of the withdrawal of players, but also because of injuries, which have also focused on the point guard position. I am very grateful to the work of the coach, of all the staff and the players. In friendlies and in this Window we have seen them compete at an extreme level of commitment, putting everything they have and more on the pitch. We are by no means the favourites, but I’m sure no one will be comfortable playing against Spain. We will see how far the forces go, but these players will give everything they have inside.

It is a Eurobasket of superstars in which Spain does not have one as it did before with Pau Gasol. Does it worry you to know that in the crosses they would play heads or tails against those that he has mentioned: Doncic, Antetokounmpo, Jokic and company?

I’m going to make a simplistic analogy: Greece has Antetokounmpo, Lithuania has Valanciunas, France has Fournier… and we don’t have Ricky, who is now our big star. We saw it at the World Cup and at the Games. We have Rudy Fernández, Willy Hernangómez, Lorenzo Brown… players of a very good level. But this team has always based its strength on the group despite having Pau Gasol, Marc, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky… We know that we have to compete as a team, that the defense has to be very strong. And, from there, squeeze our options. We don’t have an Antetokounmpo, or a Fournier or a Doncic, but we have a very competitive team.

In this context, Sergio Llull’s withdrawal seems more than a sporting problem…

It is broken, it is impossible to replace chrome for chrome. He is a player of tremendous ascendancy for this team, on the court and off. When the ball burns he is very comfortable, and then off the court he is a fantastic guy who makes coexistence very easy. Thank God the injury is not serious, but it leaves him out of the Eurobasket and makes us break at a time of tremendous difficulty. But there’s no use crying. If we intend to win by individuals, it will cost us a lot. Our strength, I insist, has to be the group.

Without Llull, Rudy Fernández gains weight as a veteran, a player who since making his debut in 2004 has only missed the appointment with the National Team once, in 2017.

I know that he is well known in world basketball, but I think that Rudy’s true dimension will only be revealed by time. As a player he is a no-brainer. He has been decisive with the National Team since 2004, at home he lacks a wall for so many titles and medals… But as a person, his commitment and his way of leading are things of incalculable value. He has been with the National Team in moments of very serious personal difficulties. I think there are few players in the world with his human and sporting quality.

How do you see Sergio Scariolo? Do you get the feeling that more weight has been given to his work as the team has seemed less powerful by name?

Back to the bar counter comments: ‘with Pau and Navarro this team trains alone‘. I understand and it makes me smile, but this is more serious. How many selections have we seen full of stars that have not achieved even a quarter of what this Selection has achieved? The players influence, because of their quality and their commitment. But the coach’s ability and all his staff to make the stars play in a committed way, the way the National Team defended, the strategy… that’s the job of the coaching staff. We are clear internally that one of our great leaders is the coach. We have seen it in championships in which we were overflowing with talent, in others in which we did not have so much… To say that this National Team trained alone seems to me unacceptably light.

I don’t know if there is a goal with which Spain’s role in this tournament is considered good. But there is a tremendous fact: he has been in the semifinals for ten Eurobaskets in a row.

I have never said that the objective is gold, not even when we were very favourites. There is a phrase that I really like: you can’t demand that they come with a medal around their neck, only that they come back with their heads held high. And I have no doubt that it will happen. What we cannot do is turn the normal into a failure. A European is extremely complicated, and it cannot be that when what we have achieved in recent years is not achieved, it is considered a failure. This team will never fail and that is very clear to me. Because the level of commitment and work is such that it will never seem like a failure to me. Time will tell and the competition will put us in the place we deserve, but this team will never fail and I say that with a very big mouth and a very swollen chest.

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