Oberto Set for 'New Era' With Wizards

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009

When the San Antonio Spurs shipped away Fabricio Oberto in a three-team trade this summer, Oberto was home in Argentina, recovering from a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat that contributed to his most difficult season in the NBA. After dealing with the initial surprise of leaving the only NBA team he had played for, Oberto was later waived by the Detroit Pistons and told his agent, Herb Rudoy, to simply find a team that wanted him.

Oberto didn't have to wait long to find himself in demand. The Washington Wizards were seeking one more piece to complete an offseason makeover that involved the hiring of a new coach (Flip Saunders) and a trade with Minnesota for two proven veterans (Randy Foye and Mike Miller). Seeking a veteran big man with championship experience, the Wizards immediately pursued Oberto, whose résumé includes a championship with the Spurs in 2007 and a gold medal with Argentina from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"Fab was at the top of that list," Saunders said, rattling off several of Oberto's positive attributes, such as his high basketball IQ and willingness to make sacrifices for the good of the team. Saunders then mentioned that Oberto is involved with a winery in Argentina "and that was the turning point. That put me over the top."

Oberto is coming off a season in which he averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. His season began ominously, when he missed the first two games because of an arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. He routinely missed a game or two throughout the season as doctors monitored him, and claimed that medication he took to treat his condition made him "dizzy when I was playing."

After another incident in March, Oberto decided to have an ablation, a non-invasive procedure to serve as a permanent treatment. Andrea Natale performed the procedure in Austin, and Oberto said he doesn't expect to have any problem going back to rugged ways on the basketball court. He is also excited about joining the Wizards, whose doctors cleared him this week.

"I mean, it's like a new era for me," said Oberto, 34. "We have a great, great team. We got to put our goal from the beginning to be in the playoffs and be a very dangerous team."

Oberto arrived in Washington on Saturday and was able to watch fellow Argentine Juan Martín del Potro defeat Andy Roddick in the final of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. He plans on going back home and returning in September. Oberto added that he is not worried about what role Saunders will have him play. "I like to see what is missing on a team and help that part," Oberto said. "If I got to play D and I don't take a shot for 10 games, I'll do it."

The Wizards' roster now has 14 players, and Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said he doesn't expect to make any more roster changes between now and training camp.

"In all likelihood, these are the players we are going into camp with, unless something very interesting comes along from a trade standpoint," Grunfeld said. "I'm always motivated to put the best possible team out there. Last year was the toughest year of my professional career as a general manager. It was very hard for everybody in our organization. We knew what the reasons were for the season, but it didn't make it any easier. We're excited about this upcoming season and we're probably as talented as we've been since we've been here, for sure."

Saunders said he visited point guard Gilbert Arenas in Chicago last week and said that Arenas's surgically repaired leg is stronger than it has ever been. Saunders said Arenas has gone from squatting just 80 pounds to 315 pounds. "If you walked into the gym, you wouldn't know he was hurt." Grunfeld said he expects Arenas, who was limited to just two games after having his third knee procedure last season, to be ready when the season begins.

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