heinnews’s David Hein this week caught up with good friend Dirk Bauermann, Germany’s basketball national team coach. In part two of the interview they discussed Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki playing for Germany this summer, Lucca Staiger’s impact on the German national team, getting Joe Herber some playing time, the best offensive and defensive player in Europe, returning to the sidelines as a club coach and Germany hosting a European or world championship.
heinnews: It’s still a bit early, but what is the latest on the status of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman playing this summer for Germany at the 2009 EuroBasket?
Bauermann: I talked to Chris two weeks ago and he said he was interested. He is back playing but he is not sure about things in the situation in Los Angeles. So that’s up for grabs. It will also depend a bit on what Dirk does.
heinnews: And what about Dirk?
Bauermann: I will be seeing him in April in Dallas when they have a three-game home stand. I will go and try to convince him to play. I’m pretty optimistic that he will play. That’s too long a summer for him not to play. He would get bored I think if he didn’t play.
heinnews: By when would you like to have a decision?
Bauermann: Well, the earlier the better. But we just have to wait and see. But they understand that they have to make a decision. I think by the end of July it would be important to know if they will be playing. But I’m not going to give them a deadline. We’ll talk. And I’m sure they will talk as well. I’m not going to get too paranoid about it.
heinnews: How do you see Germany’s chances in Poland with and without Nowitzki and Kaman?
Bauermann: If they play, I think we can get pretty far. If not, then it will be a real learning experience. It will be a truly interesting endeavor if they don’t. For a lot of the guys it will be the first time of playing at this level. And it’s hard to predict what will happen. Will we just get blown out or can we stay close and then maybe lose late because we lack that experience? We’ll see. But it will definitely be fun one way or the other.
heinnews: Of course, the roster depends greatly on if Nowitzki and Kaman play. But can you give us some new names for the German roster?
Bauermann: Well I think Lucca Staiger can contribute to the team. He will play for the A2 national team at Belgrade in the University Games. He had a good season given the circumstances of not playing for the entire season before that. But he should have an impact. He is the typical buffalo athlete – strong as an ox, a good shooter, a good decision-maker, unselfish and a good defender. I would be surprised if he didn’t make the team and have an impact. Heiko Schaffartzik is playing really well. He has turned into a true point guard. He was a bit of a shooter at the point. But now he really handles as team well. He will be Steffen Hamann’s backup. I haven’t talked to Mithat (Demirel) yet if he wants to play. I would see him as a third point guard and mentor for our young players. Otherwise there are three young players who would compete for the third string point guard.
I hope to have Joe Herber back at full strength. His not playing in Berlin is a huge concern for me. I understand (Alba coach) Luka (Pavicevic) and his philosophy of using just three guys for the two wings spots. We are thinking about finding him a summer league in the U.S. where he can play and get back into a rhythm before coming back to the national team. His defensive presence and intelligence is very important to our team.
At the three, Elias Harris has a chance. I can see him surprising some people.
We are pretty deep at the four with Jan (Jagla) and Sven (Schultze). Jan will be really important if Dirk and Chris don’t come with his experience. We would need some leadership from him.
And then we have Tim (Ohlbrecht) at either the five or four. When he finally gets healthy, I think he will be great in the playoffs. And he will be called upon to do a lot for us as well. Otherwise we have young guys like Robin Benzing, Johannes Lischka and Tibor Pleiss. All three are around 20 years old and have a lot of potential. One or two of them could make the team and if Dirk and Chris can’t come than maybe all three.
heinnews: Okay, let’s switch gears, the NCAA tournament is coming to a close this weekend. Did you fill out a bracket at all?
Bauermann: Oh no. I am so bad at that. We always did that in Bamberg. Chris Ensminger was the main man for that. But I was always so off. I can’t predict anything.
heinnews: What do you think about the quality of the NCAA games?
Bauermann: I have watched a lot of games this season. Sometimes I don’t care for the type of basketball that is played. It’s too up and down. But there is some very good basketball played. The parity is great. And the number of players that come out every year is just amazing.
heinnews: And we are getting closer and closer to the Euroleague Final Four. How hard is it not being out there as a coach now?
Bauermann: I’ll tell you, I have watched a lot of Euroleague games this season too. And it’s tough not being out there competing at the highest level. That’s what I miss most. That is probably the worst part of being only the national team coach. But it’s been great fun to watch them.
heinnews: Even though you said you don’t really predict games well, do you have a pick as a winner?
Bauermann: Well, I think Dimitris Diamantidis has taken his game to another level on the offensive side. He was always an absolutely great defender. But now I think he is one of the best offensive players in the Euroleague as well. So, for that reason alone I would probably pick Panathinaikos. But none of those teams would surprise me.
heinnews: You have not even completed your first year of your contract with the German federation. But do you see yourself returning to the sidelines as a club coach?
Bauermann: Well, I don’t know if I can do it in Germany after causing such an uproar. But I accept my role as national team coach right now. I think I have a contract for four or five more years, something like 2011 or 2012. I don’t even know. But I don’t think I will be able to sit and watch these games being played for nine months. But I will definitely take a close look. This first year has been good. It’s given me a chance to reload my battery. But I don’t think I can do it for four more years. If something comes up that is a really intriguing offer, I will really look at it long and hard.
heinnews: Okay, last question. Germany in general and Hamburg in particular are bidding to host the U17 FIBA 2010 World Championship. It has been a long time since Germany hosted any sort of tournament – the U18 European Championship in Ludwigsburg, Esslingen and Böblingen in 2002. How important would it be for Germany to host this tournament?
Bauermann: I’ll tell you what, it’s about time. The U17s would be great. But we have to find a way and the resources to host a EuroBasket or World Championship if we truly want to promote the game of basketball in Germany. It’s too bad we couldn’t do it while Dirk was still playing. But we need a big tournament to promote the game and challenge handball. But the German basketball president thinks along the same line. But the problem is that there is no government support. But I do think we have to eventually host one of these big tournaments.
heinnews: Well, thanks a lot. As always, it’s been a pleasure. And we’ll see you in Poland
Bauermann: You’re welcome. Good talking to you.