According to exclusive inside information obtained by the Greek media, Kleiza’s serious injury was foreseen, and despite that Toronto Raptors, pushed him to the limits, with no disregard whatsoever for the player’s health.
TalkBasket’s attention around the circumstances involved around Kleiza’s injury was first alerted after visiting the blog of an insider Olympiacos fan. The author claims that Kleiza’s injury was inevitable and that according to inside information, from Olympiacos’ medical team – posted on September 1st, 2009 – they had predicted that Kleiza would suffer a major injury to either his knees or waist in the next three to four years.
Then, Sport24.gr – one of the largest and most reliable sports media in Greece – exposed the real story about Kleiza’s injury. The Lithuanian international had been complaining to Raptors’ medical team for the past two months about excruciating pain in his right knee. The team’s doctors ignored his pleas and insisted that it was nothing to worry about and that he should continue training at 100% and just go through some routine therapies until the pain is gone.
Kleiza, having no other choice, listened to the doctors and continued training – and playing – at his 100%, having no idea the deterioration his knee was receiving, day by day. Needless to mention that the pain kept growing and at the same his performance started diminishing. Two weeks ago, and after having had just enough of his team medical’s team criminal neglect, Kleiza made up his mind and told Raptors that he refused to play until the pain is completely gone. Not only the Raptors administration did not take his claims seriously but they were dissatisfied with his “unprofessional behaviour”, still insisting that the injury was “nothing serious”.
Even after Kleiza had an MRI the club insisted there was nothing wrong with him. Kleiza missed Raptors’ last ten games and after visiting an orthopedist in Denver the diagnosis was compelling. He had damaged his meniscus and cartilage, something which called for immediate surgery.
The rest of the story is quite known, by this time. Having in mind that Toronto Raptors did the exact same to Jorge Garbajosa, the outcome of the story should be of no surprise to anyone. Furthermore, if one examines the way the Canadian team, treated the player, regarding the possibility of him playing for Spanish NT, the Lithuanian fans should have no illusions of Kleiza playing in Eurobasket 2011, even if he is rehabilitated on time.
Unless he follows Garbajosa’s example and play anyway disobeying the club, something highly unlikely having in mind the four years contract worth almost $19.000.000 he signed with Raptors last summer. Just a note: Toronto Raptors sued Spanish Basketball Federation after Garbajosa chose to play for Spain NT, rebelling against the club. Not only that, but they purposely and systematically bullied him by not giving him playing time, prior to Eurobasket 2007. Another European player who was despotised by the NBA franchise was Turkish star Hedo Turkoglu.
The ironic similarity in these cases is that Garbajosa went through hell to play for his home country because he didn’t want to miss the Eurobasket that Spain would host, like Lithuania will host Eurobasket this year, while Turkoglu’s season with them was during the year Turkey would host the World Championship of 2010.
It is worth to mention that during his Olympiacos era Kleiza received the outmost attention, treatment and respect from the club’s medical staff. Even after the slightest complain or pain the player was treated and rested, even sacrificing key games, like the one vs Panathinaikos in OAKA, for Greek A1 regular season, in which Panathinaikos sealed the top spot and absolute home advantage in the play-offs.
An additional example of Raptors’ treatment towards European players is Predrag Stojakovic. The player who joined the club just months ago had accumulated fluid in his knee, which in turn got swollen. Despite that the club insisted he was in position to play, but unlike Kleiza, Stojakovic refused to play. The club perceived that move as a blackmail and traded him off.
It is worth noting that Stojakovic has not played a single minute since he joined Dallas Mavericks two weeks ago, something which proves that the player indeed had an injury problem, which disabled him from playing.
All the above and the recent comments made by Dallas Mavericks’ tycoon owner Mark Cuban, mocking international basketball and FIBA, is just another link in the chain that goes to show how NBA is mis-treating European basketball player and disregards any values of fair-play and respect for National Teans, Federations, the spirit of the Olympic Games and most of all the fans, who make basketball what it is.