Fabricio Oberto "The Ultimate Teammate"
The stat line reads 2.6 ppg., 2.4 rpg. and 2.3 apg. for Wizards big man Fabricio Oberto through nine games. To many, those numbers are not eye popping. However, to the Wizards, Oberto’s value does not lie in his statistics.
In the off-season, the Wizards acquired Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Fabricio Oberto. Foye and Miller were expected to contribute right away, while Oberto was expected to provide depth in the front court coming off the bench. However, after Antawn Jamison injured his shoulder in the pre-season, Head Coach Flip Saunders threw Oberto into the rotation and increased his role. Just don’t look at his numbers to determine Oberto’s contribution to the team.
A good basketball player is not necessarily defined by the amount of points he scores or rebounds he grabs, but rather by his ability to make his team better. Offensively, Oberto rarely attempts a shot. He sets screens to get his teammates open and looks for cutters when he has the ball. He has great vision and is an excellent passer. Defensively, Oberto is always in position. He understands how to defend a ball-screen, knows when to help off his man to stop the other team’s penetration, battles opposing post players in the paint, communicates to his teammates, and boxes out his man to prevent him from getting a rebound.
“(Oberto) is one of the better power forward defenders in the league, as far as the physicality he plays with," said Coach Saunders. "He's a great passer. He doesn't rely on his offensive scoring much, but he does the other things to make other guys better on the team."
Saunders has repeatedly said that the Wizards are a team with ‘no duplicate players’. The role of each player on the team is different because they each possess different skills.
“I like to see what is missing on the team and I fill the part,” said Oberto of his role on this team. “If I got to play D, not take a shot for ten games, I’ll do it. It’s for the health of the team and the win.”
When Oberto and Saunders met after the Wizards signed Oberto in the off-season, he told Saunders, “I’ll guard the three, four, or five, you tell me who to guard, and I’ll guard him.”
Against the Dallas Mavericks, Saunders assigned Oberto the task of guarding Dirk Nowitzki, a match-up nightmare for most players in the league, Oberto flustered the Mavericks star player, as he missed 15 of his 25 shots. Offensively, Oberto attempted just two shots, but his defensive effort helped the Wizards secure a victory in Dallas.
Oberto knows what it takes to win. His resume consists of an NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 and an Olympic Gold medal in 2004 with the Argentina National Team. It is no coincidence that both these teams won championships while Oberto was a member on them.
"Fab is the ultimate teammate," center Brendan Haywood said. "He's the guy that every winning team needs. He plays hard, practices hard, doesn't care about his stats, doesn't care about self, is always in the right place. To be successful, every team needs an Oberto, and we're just glad we have one."
In today’s age of basketball, most highlights show players with flare, gushing over tomahawk dunks, behind-the-back passes, and flashy between-the-legs dribbles. Oberto is a breath of fresh air, as it is rare to find a player who sacrifices himself for the benefit of the team. Oberto’s unselfish, team-first attitude may go unnoticed by the casual observer, but is relished by his teammates.
"He gives us that [balance] that we didn't have in the past: a veteran big who knows how to play the game of basketball,” said Gilbert Arenas. “He's just going to fight and do whatever it takes to win."
Throughout his career, Oberto’s unselfish mentality has not shown up as a statistic in the box score under his name, the measure of Oberto’s impact is seen in another stat, the number of wins his team has at the end of the season.