W.hat does a national basketball team do at the bus stop if the bus hasn’t arrived yet? Watch basketball. The final game in the NBA finals series, live on mobile. A symbolic image for the Olympics. From a distance, basketball appears to be a world game that the Americans will win if they are attracted by the gold of the Summer Games. And the Germans are watching.
Even competitive sports experts believed in this painful habit at the end of June, when the size of the Olympic team seemed to be established. But at the very last moment, the selection of the German Basketball Association (DBB) jumped on the plane to Tokyo, the sweat after a hard-fought tournament victory in Split still on their foreheads and a big smile on their faces. Believers say the last will be first.
Basketball experts from around the world have other things in mind when it comes to the Olympic tournament. The former professional and analyst Dimitrije Curcic asked 83 journalists, among other things, about the medal winners. The result: Gold for the NBA selection for the sixth time since the pros appeared at the Olympics in 1992. Silver for Australia, bronze for Spain. 1.2 percent see the Germans on the podium.
Before the 2019 World Cup, the selection of national coach Henrik Rödl enjoyed more confidence. Because Dennis Schröder was on the squad. One of the fastest building players in the world, currently an NBA professional without a contract, but with the prospect of a multi-million dollar job. “Every team would like to have him with them,” says Armin Andres, Vice President of the DBB for competitive sports: “But it no longer worked.”
Schröder’s market value could not be insured as high as the Braunschweig native would like. Because Daniel Theis and Maximilian Kleber also canceled, the Germans are playing in Tokyo without their established NBA professionals. This may reduce the level of perception in the American basketball world fixated scene, but it is therefore considered an opportunity. “We are”, says the former national player Andres, “not easy to calculate.” That is the most concrete official answer to the strange question, why a German national team without its most colorful figure has had a number of very difficult games in Croatia, especially in the last few Minutes, has won.
Nobody doubts Schröder’s individual skill level. But at the World Cup in China it was already evident from the outside that things were not going well inside: 18th, with an ensemble of talented people that did not exist in Germany before. They didn’t find a team. Before and in Split, one was created under the most difficult conditions imaginable. The hiccups about Schröder’s participation, the serious illness of Paul Zipser, who was once again playing splendidly in Munich, the nomination of Joshiko Saibou because of his participation in a demonstration with corona deniers in the summer of 2020, and finally the public discussion about Rödl’s future as head coach.
Hard to read
Winger Johannes Voigtmann spoke of a “disaster”. What that means? Either these problems welded the players together. Or each individual is able to suppress the huge background noises. Resistance to stress led to the Split coup. Because this team didn’t lose its nerve when it was left behind, always found its way back into the rhythm and offered a unit in defense. The quality of the “leftovers” is great.
Basically in the prime basketball age, trained in the Europa League, whose strongest clubs do not have to hide from NBA teams: Maodo Lô, Niels Giffey (both Alba Berlin), Johannes Barthel (Fenerbahçe Istanbul) or Voigtmann (CSKA Moscow). He stands for a new statics in the team: “He has the great calm, he is the leading force,” says Andres, “his game intelligence, his defense, his passes are outstanding. And if it has to be, then he scores. ”Or straightens what has gone wrong on several levels. A discussion with Saibou, who had already distanced himself from conspiracy theorists in the FAZ in autumn, was enough for integration. The Guard justified his comeback on the floor in Split: fearless, self-confident and combative.
Because all of Rödl’s professionals performed like that, the Germans’ game is difficult to read. Sometimes it was Saibou, sometimes Maodo Lô, and in the finals even the young Moritz Wagner, who came into play in the best interests of the team. If the national coach manages to transfer this culture of indulgence and giving into the Olympic tournament, then the group phase could perhaps be survived with three chunks. A victory over Italy on Sunday (6.40 a.m. CEST in the FAZ live ticker for the Olympics, in the ARD and on Eurosport) would open the gate, because in addition to the first and second also the best group thirds move into the knockout round.
Italy competes as the proud conqueror of the Serbs in the Belgrade qualifying tournament in Tokyo, reinforced at the last moment with Danilo Gallinari from the Atlanta Hawks. In the average of his ten-year NBA career, the 2.08-meter man scored 15 points per game on the “big wing position”. If the Germans lose, they come under immediate pressure. Because Nigeria wants to compete with eight NBA players on Wednesday. Medal candidate Australia appears as the strongest opponent at the final of the preliminary round on July 31st.
“The boys are hot,” says Andres, Olympic participant in 1992, “highly motivated, they want more.” And they can’t help but enjoy the Olympics on the floor as a unit. Corona leaves no room for distraction, but it will hardly be able to annoy Germans. Most of them have been used to the isolation for a year.