German basketball fans woke up Tuesday to the news that they will have another German player to route for in the NBA as Tim Ohlbrecht signed a contract until the end of the season with the Houston Rockets. The media reaction in Deutschland was quite positive with the mass daily Bild leading the way, saying Ohlbrecht is the “next Nowitzki” and asking the question: “Will he be our next basketball hero?”
The Rockets acquired the 24-year-old Ohlbrecht after he had averaged 13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks over 32 games while shooting 60 percent from the field in the D-League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which had earned him a spot in the D-League All-Star.
Ohlbrecht, who collected 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Prospects team in the All-Star game, had recently turned down a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics to sign longer term with Houston, who will have team options for the following two years.
“I did it. Can’t believe it. My dream is now real. Thank everybody who supported me on my way,” said Ohlbrecht on Instragram.
When he finally suits up for the Rockets, Ohlbrecht will become the eighth German international to play in an NBA game following Dirk Nowitzki, Detlef Schrempf, Uwe Blab, Chris Welp, Chris Kaman, Shawn Bradley and Frido Frey.
German hoops fans will likely be waking up early overnight March 3-4 as Ohlbrecht could get the chance to be on the court with Nowitzki and Kaman as the Rockets face the Dallas Mavericks. The Texas teams hook horns again on March 6.
“It’s amazing. I read it last night and it really blew my mind that it ended up working out for him. He’s only 24 years old and he already has such a long way behind him. It just gives me great joy that he went there and he made it. It’s crazy,” German national team guard Per Günther, who has known Ohlbrecht for more than a decade told heinnews.
The German basketball federation congratulated Ohlbrecht and then posted an article with the response from national team coach Frank Menz.
“We are really happy for him because he has achieved his goal and made the jump to an NBA roster. He showed a lot of desire and ambition to go the hard way through the D-League. He really had to fight his way through and prove himself every day – and that in a team in which every player is only playing for his own statistics,” said Menz, who was in the United States a few days ago to visit Ohlbrecht.
“In the talks with Houston management, it was clear pretty quickly that they have high regards for Tim. He works hard, is diligent, sociable and very focused. In addition to his good showings in the D-League, that was certainly very important for the long-term contract.”
The 6-11 center Ohlbrecht had options in Germany for this season but elected instead to move to the United States and try out the D-League in his hopes of making the NBA. Ohlbrecht’s decision puzzled many in Germany since he was unable to live up to the superstar potential he had displayed early on.
“I definitely wanted a change of scenery. After playing seven years in Germany, I wanted something new, try something unknown,” Ohlbrecht said in an interview with the German website spox.com.
“I am happy to be out of Germany to start a new chapter here.”
Ohlbrecht, who doesn’t turn 25 until late August, also said he was tired of hearing all the negativity in Germany.
“There are so many negative stories about me in Germany. I constantly am being accused of something. I just wanted to get away.”
When asked why he thinks he has a bad reputation in Germany, Ohlbrecht responded by saying: “I cannot explain it, no idea. But I also don’t care. I learned to deal with it and not read those stories. My family, my closest friends and my new club know how I really am. And that’s what matters. I am proving now who the real Tim Ohlbrecht is.”
Ohlbrecht is finally living up to his potential – partially because of the style of play in the U.S., where the game is much more up-tempo than the structured system in Germany and Europe.
“Basketball here is a lot quicker than in Germany. It’s just crazy how we run back and forth. There are a lot more fast breaks than in the Beko BBL. It’s all about reading what your teammates want from you and when they see that you’re open. You just have to play and run with them,” said the Wuppertal native.
Ohlbrecht’s main competition for playing time as Houston’s backup to starting center Omer Asik will likely be Greg Smith.
Media reaction in Germany to Ohlbrecht has been positive and quite hopeful.
The mass daily Bild, which gave the world the headline “We are Pope!” when German Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, splashed a picture of a dunking Ohlbrecht on its website and proclaimed: “Here flies the next Nowitzki”.
And Bild started its reporting on the signing with the question: “Will he be our new basketball hero?”
The Beko BBL league ran a long piece by league media coordinator Sven Simon, who covered Ohlbrecht for years in Germany.
Simon made a very good point that while Germany had long anticipated a successor to Nowitzki, it was Ohlbrecht who had to shoulder all those expectations. And then once he didn’t live up to those expectations, the attention turned to criticism – quite unfair to compare Ohlbrecht to a world superstar like Nowitzki.
The piece also said the current generation of young talents has it much easier as the expectations are spread out over a number of youngsters such as Robin Benzing, Elias Harris, Tibor Pleiß and now Dennis Schröder and Daniel Theis.
The basketball portal crossover-online.de reacted to the Ohlbrecht news – actually even before the news was official – and recorded a mini-podcast to discuss it.
One of the viewpoints expressed was that it will not have a big effect on the German reporting of the NBA, especially if Ohlbrecht only plays five minutes a game – noting that German media do not regularly report on the NHL and NFL where Germans also play in those leagues.
Another of the presenters said it gives hope to other German talent, especially since Ohlbrecht was more or less written off in his chances of making the NBA. Ohlbrecht’s dedication shows that young players who are written off – citing even Harris being nearly written off – should not give up and that they always have the chance to get to the NBA even if others do not believe.
Here are the presentations of a couple other German media in their reporting on the Ohlbrecht signing.
Sportbild: “Contract with the Rockets! Ohlbrecht flies into the NBA”
Spox.com: Ohlbrecht makes it to the NBA!
Sport1.de: Three-year contract: Ohlbrecht becomes a Rocket