heinnews’s David Hein this week caught up with Dan Dickau, point guard with German basketball club Brose Baskets Bamberg. They discussed adapting to Germany; slamming the door on Dirk Nowitzki’s hand; playing and moving around in the NBA; NBA teammates and fashion sense; his ipod; playing for Poland at EuroBasket 2009; and rumors surrounding his early season situation in Italy.
heinnews: With having your wife and three children with you, how have you taken to being in Germany and in Bamberg?
Dickau: So far, it’s been a pretty smooth transition. Any time you’re moving the family that far, it’s tough. A lot of people think, it’s easy, you come and play basketball. That’s the easy part. Not only do you have to get yourself acclimated to a new time zone and culture but your wife and your kids as well. It’s a new way of being a family and you have to decide how things are going to be handled so far away from what you’re used to. I don’t think it would be easy for a family from Germany to pick up and move to where I’m from and not have any rough points in the transition. It’s definitely gone smooth but it has been difficult.
heinnews: What have been your most and least favorite parts so far?
Dickau: As an athlete or competitor, the games are the reason to play and that’s what’s fun. As far as the least favorite, as a family it’s been a little bit colder than we expected and hoped. There are some long days in the apartment. You can get out and do this and that but when your kids are that small, it’s not like you can spend all day walking around. So, we’re looking forward to the weather warming up a little bit so we can get out and see more of the downtown area and spend some time just walking around the city.
heinnews: How old are the kids now?
Dickau: Four and a half, three years, and six months.
heinnews: There are a lot of stereotypes about Germany. What’s been the biggest surprise about Germany?
Dickau: A lot more people speak English here than in our first stint in southern Italy. So, the communication factor has been very helpful. Something that I have grown to like is every morning going down to the little market down the street and getting pretzel sticks and rolls and just having them around the house to snack on for the family throughout the day. Back home, that’s not typical for us. That’s been a different change of pace.
heinnews: What do you think about Sundays with all the shops being closed?
Dickau: That is different. And that is still an adjustment as far as making sure you have everything you need before Saturday night – kid’s diapers or milk or orange juice – so you don’t have to spend three times as much at the gas station.
heinnews: What about the German language?
Dickau: Sprechen sie englisch? I’m trying to pick up a few words here and there. But I’ve learned that it is a very, very difficult language. But you have to at least try. Trying to greet people in German. If you don’t try to learn at least a little bit about the language or the culture then you’re cutting the experience short.
heinnews: Has there been a cultural standpoint which sticks out for you?
Dickau: Well, I haven’t had a lot of time, also not on road trips. The only time I took a walk was a 30-minute walk in Stuttgart to look at the Mercedes Museum. I didn’t have enough time to go in the museum because the bus was leaving in about one and a half hours.
heinnews: Seems kind of ironic that you landed in Germany after playing a short time in 2005 with Dirk Nowitzki. What do you think when I say: “‘Dude, open the door. My fingers are in there.”
Dickau: (Lets out a big laugh) Aah, that was one of the funniest experiences I have ever had – whether it be family, friends, teammates or whatever. And it happened to be with one of the 10 best basketball players in the world. A few of us were going out to dinner. I just closed the door and the next thing I hear he’s asking me to open it back up. And I’m thinking what the heck is going on. I look back and his fingers are sticking in the door. But it didn’t matter. I think it helped him the next day. The next night I think he had something like 42 points against Miami. So, maybe he needs to have his fingers shut in the door more often.
heinnews: It’s every basketballer’s dream growing up to play in the NBA. And you accomplished that. But did you ever think things would go like they did for you – playing for six teams in six years – including two teams twice?
Dickau: Not at all. A lot of that has to do with teams I’ve been involved with were in rebuilding phases or trying to get rid of certain guys with contracts. Unfortunately a couple times I fit into both of those categories. I don’t think any of those trades were necessarily geared around me moving to another team. They were more geared with we want to move this guy and how do we match up his salaries. Unfortunately if you’re not a huge salary in the NBA and you are kind of able to fill in the pieces you can get lumped into some trades. And that’s what happened to myself.
heinnews: How did you handle all those moves? Must have been tough?
Dickau: It’s definitely tough, picking up and moving the family that many times. And that’s why coming back to Europe was a tough decision. The first time we went to Italy things didn’t quite work out the way we had anticipated or hoped. My wife gave her blessing and so far things have been good. There are some tough spots here or there. But as an athlete you only have a short time to play the game at a very high level. I’ve been in the NBA and I still think there could be a future for me in the NBA. But as of this year it just wasn’t happening. Coming to Europe was an opportunity and Bamberg really looked good.
heinnews: But one day you will be able to say you were traded for such stars like Rasheed Wallace, Nick van Exel, Erik Dampier and Zach Randolph. That’s worth something I guess, no?
Dickau: Yeah it is. At the time there’s not a lot of consolation. But if you look at it, 30 teams in the NBA, 15 players – 450 players. Obviously with the worldwide economy the way it is a lot of teams are only carrying 13 guys. So there are 420 or 430 players in the NBA right now. To be one of those guys for six straight years is quite an accomplishment. It says quite a bit.
heinnews: You’ve had a lot of teammates over the years. Who was the best and worst teammate and why?
Dickau: My favorite teammate of all time would have to be Brian Scalabrine. We had known each other a little bit from the college years since he’s from the Northwest as well. So you kind of follow people’s careers like that. I talked to him a little bit over the first couple years in the league. And then when we were together in Boston we lived in the same apartment complex and our wives got along well together. He’s just really a great team. He’s really enthusiastic. He’s a team guy. He wants to be on a good team. And he wants to be part of things. He’s an out-going guy so he made things a lot of fun
heinnews: And your worst?
Dickau: Worst teammate, I’m not gonna go there (laughing). You know, with all the moving around and all the different teams I’ve been on, I would have quite a few to choose from. You get to that level and some guys think they’re owed different things; think they’re better than they truly are. Being around a lot of guys that have a big ego kind of gets old after a while. But I won’t name names.
heinnews: You mentioned Scalabrine. Who is your best friend in the game?
Dickau: My best friend in the game … you know, I don’t think I have a best friend in the game. A good friend of mine whose career I have really followed and pulled for him even though things haven’t gone the way I would have hoped for him was Richie Frahm. He bounced around the NBA like myself, maybe not traded as many times. He’s been to Europe a couple of times. We grew up in the same area – about 10 minutes apart. He’s one of those guys who I feel if he had gotten a little bit bigger of an opportunity somewhere he could’ve had a much more noticeable career than what he’s had. I still think there’s a chance for him to play a role in a team. But whether that happens, I don’t know.
heinnews: Let’s get away from the game again really quick. You have an ipod? What’s on your ipod that you listen to that many people would never believe?
Dickau: My favorite music group is Third Day. It’s a Christian group. I probably listen to them the most of anything on my ipod, especially when I’m doing some stretching before games. Another artist that probably nobody in Europe has heard of is Paul Wright. He’s a friend of mine. He’s a smaller Christian artist who uses a lot of acoustic guitar, really different field to his music. I really like his music too.
heinnews: What about the food here in Germany?
Dickau: The food here in Germany has been surprisingly good. I’m not a big fried food person and things here seem to be fried. But I like it. The one thing I really love is going into bakeries and getting fresh bread and pretzels and stuff like that. And I really like the musli, the granola cereal. My son (the 3-year-old) really loves going to restaurants because he can get a hot dog just about anywhere (laughing). It’s gonna be a sausage or a bratwurst or something but we just say hot dog and he loves it.
heinnews: What do you think about all the BMWs and Mercedes driving around?
Dickau: They’re great. I had one Mercedes in the past and I don’t know why I sold it. They are great cars. It kind of took me by surprise when you come to Germany and the team gives you Toyota cars. Nothing against the sponsors, they are nice cars, but you see all these other cars, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW. We got on some of the local highways and they were just flying by you.
heinnews: After a couple month now with your team-mates, who would you say has the best and worst fashion sense?
Dickau: I don’t know. We practice so much, everybody just wears sweat pants all the time.
heinnews: What about the NBA?
Dickau: Some guys in the NBA have absolutely awful sense of style. Pull your pants up (laughing). They’re hanging at your knees. And you buy a shirt three sizes too big. But on the other hand there are a lot of players in the NBA who really dress well. They wear a suit to must home games and many away games. They present themselves very well. I would say I am kind of in the middle. I’ll wear a suit occasionally. I didn’t bring one here. But it’s that middle ground that’s the easiest one to be in.
heinnews: After being in the NBA six years, where do you see the state of the NBA right now?
Dickau: The league is still growing. I still keep up a little bit with espn.com and nba.com. I think as far as marketing wise and financially it’s still there. Everything has slowed down. But the quality of the game is continuing to get better and better. Some of the legitimate top players in the league want to win a championship and are not sold out on themselves – guys like LeBron, Dwyane Wade has come back after the Olympics and had a phenomenal season. You can go on down the line. So many guys are having great seasons. Brandon Roy in Portland. I’m from that area and been on that team before and seen his growth. He’s a guy who plays the right way. There are so many players in the league who are in my view doing things the right way, trying to win for the team instead of trying to do things for themselves.
heinnews: Was there ever a player you really just watched and said it’s an honor to watch him play?
Dickau: I’ve never had that. The only time I stepped on a basketball court and looked over my shoulder and said wow was my rookie year when Jordan was in the league and we were on the floor at the same time. Other than that I have never stepped on the floor and been intimidated. I’ve maybe thought, wow, he’s pretty good. I’m gonna have to play well. But I have never once been intimidated. Shaq as big as he is physically, his skills set doesn’t intimidate me because I never guard him. But physically, yeah, he’s huge.
heinnews: How has your adjustment been going to the European game?
Dickau: The adjustment has been good and bad. I have been called for a lot of travels. The refs really pay attention that the ball is on the floor before you take your next step. But then you can get away with another one at the end of it. So that’s different. They’ll let you get away with more on the ball contact. Then off the ball I got some calls where I didn’t know what to expect. But that happens everywhere – college or NBA – trying to figure out what’s called or not. I’m only five games in here. Hopefully in the next few games I can figure out a little bit better the travel situation so I can cut down one or two turnovers a game. And also not get myself caught in some foul trouble.
heinnews: What would it mean to lead Bamberg to the title?
Dickau: That would be great. You come here to win games. I don’t think you can start championships and titles until you start winning games. One of the first teams we played after I got here was Göttingen, who was in first when we played and beat them. So we showed that we can win. We’ve lost some games where it’s anybody’s game down the stretch but we weren’t able to get things done. If you’re going to start winning games and start talk about going deep in the playoffs and maybe winning the title you have to take care of those close games
heinnews: After playing in the NBA, how is it playing against teams in small places like Göttingen or Nordlingen etc?
Dickau: It is kind of difficult. Look at the overall situation. The gyms are smaller, the fans react a lot different. There’s one game a week so it gives coaches, fans and players a whole week to gear up for a game. So they do it much more different. There much more of a buzz in each gym and excitement. So that right there should give you more a little more incentive because you know what this might not be the biggest gym in the world and it might not be necessarily the level of competition that I’ve been used to in the past. But that shouldn’t matter once the ball goes up. What should matter is that I want to play well. I want to beat the guy matched up with me in all phases of the game tonight to help my team win. Once you get past some of the things you can’t control you just need to focus on the basketball and take care of that. It’s still a game.
heinnews: This summer is the European basketball championships in Poland. There are conflicting reports on your status with the Polish national team. Are you eligible to play for the host nation this summer and do you think you will play?
Dickau: They came out to L.A. last year and express their interest and I told them I was interested in it as well. It’s something that I haven’t totally committed to. I’ve let my agent kind of handle the information and they have been going back and forth as of now. So I haven’t actually spoken directly to the Polish federation in a while. But I haven’t completely shut that out of my mind. If they’re still interested and it’s still possible then I may do that. It’s really kind of hard to say because I don’t know all the final dates. I don’t know how long this season is gonna last. Those are all different considerations as well in making a yes or no answer.
heinnews: But are you eligible to play for Poland right now?
Dickau: As far as I know yes.
heinnews: So you do have a Polish passport?
Dickau: I do not have a Polish passport as of now. But we’re in the process of getting one.
heinnews: There were also conflicting reports early this season regarding your departure from the Italian club Air Avellino, ranging from cortisone shots for back pain to a refusal to take a test for illegal substances, to problems with housing. Could you clear the air on this issue so that everyone knows what happens?
Dickau: I’ll clear the air on some of it. I had some back spasms and some issues I had to sit out a couple practices and they took that as I wasn’t healthy. Well that doesn’t make any sense because two days later I’m in training camp with the Warriors. So my back obviously isn’t that bad. After a couple days where my back was sore or stiff with spasms, they wanted to give me a shot in my back. I said no (laughing), this is my back. I’ve never had any problems with it before. I don’t need a shot. I’ve never been a guy who takes Advil or anything for pain. I’ve always just done it naturally. So that’s what that was. To the day, I haven’t had any other back pains. So it was really interesting.
As far as the housing, sometimes when guys come over to Europe things are set up how they’re used to. That wasn’t the case. Nothing was ready. So my family and I were in a hotel for two and a half weeks. With three kids that’s not easy. I’m not pointing fingers or blaming anyone. I just don’t think it was the right situation for us as a family at time. We moved on. We haven’t said anything negative to Avellino or about Avellino because I don’t think it was their fault and I don’t think it was our fault. It’s just something that didn’t work out.
heinnews: There are some nightmares about players in Europe not getting paid and other problems. And then you ran into some problems right away in Italy. How did that affect your look on Europe?
Dickau: That was one of the reasons why I decided to come back. I wanted to really take my time. Things didn’t go the way we had expected in Italy so I went to Golden State training camp. And I told my wife I’m going to be a whole lot more selective in the second go-around if we do go back to Europe. We’re gonna wait until after Christmas just so we can kind of chill out as a family and then take our time with the next step. In talking to a lot of different people – Casey Jacobsen, who had played here in Bamberg, Jared Reiner, who had also played here – I kind of got the sense that Germany was an easy transition for the both of them. After talking to them I thought it would be an easier transition here in Germany that it would be potentially in other places. Not saying that it wouldn’t have gone easy somewhere else. But I kind of wanted to take as many variables out of the decision as I could. Having guys who I know and trust share their experience with how it went here really played a big part in me deciding to come here to Bamberg rather than waiting out a couple more weeks and going somewhere else.
heinnews: This past summer, big headlines were made when Josh Childress left the Atlanta Hawks to join Olympiacos in Greece and Brandon Jennings passed up college to go to Lottomatica Roma. Talk about each of their cases if you would.
Dickau: I know Josh Childress from playing against him. The thing is with him in the NBA he was a restricted free agent so he was in a tough position because nobody was going to able to offer him a contract he thought he was worth because Atlanta was just gonna match it. So he had very little power over his situation. And then Olympiacos came in with their offer – I don’t remember the numbers, but it was a very nice contract. If that was going to be a lot more than what he was going to be making in Atlanta and he was comfortable living overseas – I don’t think he has a family yet – Athens is supposed to be a great city, they play in the Euroleague, that would be pretty tough to pass up for quite a few players. As far as Brandon Jennings, I don’t know him directly or much about his past or his situation, but I hope it works out for him. It sounds like he’s had his ups and downs throughout the season. It sounds like he’s very talented. If he learns quite a bit from European basketball and then he goes to the NBA I think that can give him quite a bit of character and quite a bit of toughness and help him get through some difficult stages early in a career, which everyone goes through. I think that can be a big help to his career if he handles Europe the right way, which it sounds like he has.
heinnews: Last question, some players have come to Europe and then made it back to the NBA. Did you think at all when making your decision to come here and play that you can use it to get back to the NBA?
Dickau: No, not at all. I was just hanging out at home working out and hoping an NBA team would call. There was some interest but it just didn’t working out. I was just thinking it’s middle of January and it’s time to get back out of the court. No matter what level – Germany, Euroleague teams, NBA – you can’t take a full year off. I thought Bamberg was a great fit for me.