heinnews’s David Hein this week caught up with Johannes Herber, guard with the German BBL club Alba Berlin. They discussed returning from injuries, not playing at the Olympics, BBL surprises, the German national team, 5ive magazine, music movies and Christmas shopping.
heinnews: I guess congratulations are in order after you returned to the court on Saturday against Braunschweig, playing eight minutes and collecting three points, one steal and one blocked shot. How did it feel to be out on the hardwood again?
Herber: Oh it felt great. It had been a long time since I played a game. I played four minutes against Nördlingen a couple weeks ago. But this is first time I got some real minutes in a game that counted. And it went pretty well I think.
heinnews: This was a pretty big moment for you. For those out there who do not know what you’ve been through over the past season and a half, give us a recap of the injuries you’ve had.
Herber: In October 2007, I tore my ACL and rehabbed. I was just about ready to come back and then in June 2008 I re-tore one-tenth of the ligament and needed to have surgery again and rehab for eight weeks. Then in mid-October I tore a muscle fiber in my left calf and had to miss three weeks of action.
heinnews: When the calf injury happened, did you start thinking to yourself what did I do to deserve this?
Herber: Well it was tough when I tore the ACL. But the fact that it happened I accepted pretty quickly and just wanted to work on rehabbing. That went well until then small setbacks started happening. With the re-rupture and calf I started to really feel powerless.
heinnews: Did you ever doubt that you would make it back to the court?
Herber: The calf injury was a minor deal. But the whole thing was kind of hard to endure. I never really doubted myself. But it was tiring and frustrating. I kept on fighting but it didn’t seem like there was a reward to keep fighting for. But now things seem to be okay and I hope to slowly get back into the lineup. I think I will see an increase in my minutes, especially with Julius Jenkins out injured. I just hope to play well enough to stay strong out there.
heinnews: During this whole injury ordeal, what kind of dialogue was there between you and coach Luka Pavicevic about the time when you return?
Herber: Before the ACL injury I had only played two games for this coach. Though I think I would have found a good role with the team. But now that I am back in the team there is a lot for me to learn about playing for the coach. He was always positive with me and told me to keep working on the things I could control. And he said he would incorporate me back into the lineup when I got back.
heinnews: Now that you are back, do you have full faith in the stability of your knee?
Herber: Yeah definitely. I was hesitant when I first came back in training camp for this season. But I just needed to get some reps and now I need to adjust to the speed of the game. Practice is practice and is not really a good indicator for the game. On Saturday I was in the game a little more and it was clearly faster than practice. So, right now I’m just trying to get my reads down and recognizing certain situations.
heinnews: The re-rupture of your knee in June and subsequent surgery meant that you would miss the Additional Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens and then the 2008 Games in Beijing. That must have been a gut-wrenching experience for you, especially since you had played such a big part in getting Germany to the Athens tournament with your performance at the 2007 EuroBasket.
Herber: Yeah the Olympics were a pretty frustrating situation as well. The Olympics were always a goal of mine after the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Afterwards at home, I thought it would be a good goal to have to try to get there in 2008. And then they made it and I couldn’t be part of it. The hardest thing was watching the guys celebrate after beating Puerto Rico to reach the Olympics. That was a tough moment. During the Olympics I was in Slovenia with Alba Berlin preparing for the season so I was more looking forward than back.
heinnews: Looking forward again – this time to Tuesday (December 9). You hope to make your debut in the Euroleague when Alba Berlin host Fenerbahce. What will it be like for you to finally play in the Euroleague?
Herber: Yeah, that will be another dream come true for me. The Euroleague has gotten so good. It is just behind the level of the NBA. And the teams competing are just so strong. It will be a great moment. I just hope I am able to help the team.
heinnews: Berlin come into the game with a 2-4 record (Now 3-4) through six of 10 games. What are the team’s chances of advancing to the Top 16?
Herber: We still have our chances. We didn’t play well in Ljubljana and Rome, especially in Rome. Roma didn’t have a good day and we couldn’t come away with a win. But Fenerbahce are a tough team. We will definitely have to bring our A-game. Everyone on that team is pretty aggressive and we will have a hard fight.
heinnews: In the recent game against Joventut, there was a mini reunion of German national team players with you, Steffen Hamann, Patrick Femerling and Joventut’s Jan Jagla. How nice was that moment for you?
Herber: It’s always good to see other German national team players. In fact Jan is one of the guys who I call on occasion during the season.
heinnews: Let’s get away from the court for a couple minutes. Are you more of a movie-goer or stay-at-home-DVD-watcher?
Herber: I suppose I like to go out to the movies.
heinnews: Okay, give us one film we should watch and one we don’t need to waste our money on.
Herber: One movie I really liked was Body of Lies. That’s a CIA movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. And I saw the new Bond movie (Quantam of Solace). It was okay but you wouldn’t have to see it.
heinnews: Next … Ipod classic or Itouch?
Herber: Actually I have a Dell Music Jukebox. I got it at a college tournament. It’s kind of like a walkman and is really durable and plays mp3s.
heinnews: What music are you listening to nowadays?
Herber: I like Kings of Leon. Some MGMT. Black Eyes.
heinnews: What about your Christmas shopping?
I haven’t done any. I am usually not very creative. I usually just buy a book.
heinnews: So, let’s head back to the hardwood. What do you want to accomplish this season?
Herber: Well, definitely we want to get to the Top 16 of the Euroleague, win the German championship and the German Cup. Winning the German championship is basically a must for Alba Berlin. But individually, I just want to get back into the swing of things and help this team meet those goals.
heinnews: Looking at the BBL this season, what has been the biggest surprise?
Herber: I think Nördlingen is a surprise how well they are playing as a promoted team. And I think Bamberg and how bad they are playing is a surprise as well with the talent they have. But they will come back this season and be one of the best teams at the end of the season. I really respect their coach Chris Fleming and how he does things.
heinnews: This summer, Germany plays against Russia, Latvia and a qualifier in the 2009 EuroBasket – a team which could be Italy or France. What do you think about the team’s chances in Poland?
Herber: The group is really a tough one. Having the qualifier there is actually one of the worst things you can have. Usually they are the weakest team. But this will be a very good team this time.
heinnews: What kind of conversations have you had with German national team coach Dirk Bauermann about your role with the team next summer – given that you’re healthy?
Herber: I have had some conversations with coach Bauermann during the year already and he was always encouraging and supportive. And he said if I recover fully from the injury and get back my form I will be part of the team and will play a good role. But I really just need to worry about getting back into game shape and we’ll see.
heinnews: Last question, you have been writing for the German basketball magazine 5ive for about two years now. What do you think about that?
Herber: It’s definitely fun. I really enjoy the process of reflecting on things and getting them done on paper. I think most of the time people like what comes out. So it’s good.