Globe Features Forbes, Who Returns To Boston On Wednesday
By Gary Washburn
In his two-year journey to the NBA, former UMass swingman Gary Forbes soaked in the experience of being a basketball nomad. He traveled to Europe, Asia, and South America, playing with several teams, some stable, some near collapse. He returned to the United States to play in the NBA D-League, then headed back overseas for more résumé building.
His quest to reach the NBA was completed last month when he was a surprise addition to the Denver Nuggets, and the team's only rookie has seized the opportunity, averaging 6.2 points in 12.7 minutes per game.
Forbes will make his return to the Bay State Wednesday with the Nuggets, looking to show the region that UMass remains capable of producing NBA-caliber players.
His confidence is high, and Forbes is not content with moderate success. He wants to become a permanent part of the Nuggets' rotation and be a dependable contributor for coach George Karl.
Forbes, a former Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, thought he deserved better than the road he was forced to take.
"I pretty much knew every day that if I came in and I gave 100 percent of my abilities, I could definitely play on the court,'' he said. "After the first week or so [of the NBA season], it became regular five-on-five basketball. You know, be the first guy there, last guy to leave, and show the coach he can trust me.
"I was always confident that I could play in the NBA. Even when I was in college, I knew I was an NBA player. I just had to have someone take a chance on me and give me the opportunity.''
The situation Forbes landed in probably couldn't have been better for him. The Nuggets were short on forwards with Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen injured, and newly acquired Al Harrington playing more power forward. Forbes is shooting 48.7 percent from the field 50 percent and the 3-point line.
Against his hometown New York Knicks Nov. 16, Forbes scored 19 points and had a career-best nine rebounds as the Nuggets raced to a victory.
But life is not a blur for Forbes. He is taking everything in stride, and the team's veterans have served as mentors.
"Chauncey [Billups], Melo [Carmelo Anthony], and Al are like my big brothers right now,'' he said. "They teach me the different stuff off and on the court. It's good having those guys there.''
The Nuggets are trying to win now, especially since Anthony appears ready to leave. They are off to a 12-6 start, 9-1 at home.
"It's good to contribute, and I have never been one of those players to settle or sell myself short,'' said Forbes, who averaged 20.3 points for the Minutemen in 2007-08. "I know my abilities and what I can do.
"I've got a lot of people to prove wrong and I've got a big chip on my shoulder, and hopefully, with opportunity, I'll be able to prove that.''
Forbes has played with Type 1 diabetes since being diagnosed with the condition five years ago, a testament to his desire to reach the highest level. And that hasn't gone unnoticed by Karl, a brutally honest coach who can be tough on rookies.
"Gary has gotten some opportunity because of the situation and I think he's done great,'' Karl said on the team's website. "His confidence for a young player is pretty impressive. He thinks he belongs out there. He plays with a lot more confidence and consistency than most young players.''
And he will have special motivation at TD Garden Wednesday. The Celtics passed on him with the 60th and final pick in the 2008 draft (although they nabbed a gem in Semih Erden).
Players such as Ante Tomic, Richard Hendrix, Shan Foster, and Maarty Leunen were taken in that draft and have yet to play in an NBA game.
It seems Forbes has a long payback list, even if many of those targets are not actual doubters but perceived ones. Undrafted players face long odds to make the NBA, and Forbes wants to stay, so he will use any motivation he can.
"Not being drafted, teams not taking a chance on me, I got a lot to prove,'' he said. "Being from UMass, a small school -- myself, Stephane Lasme, Tony [Gaffney] have been in the league, but I just don't want to be another UMass player who has made the NBA. I want to make an impact in this league.
"That's my next goal. And when I get there, that will be icing on the cake.''
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