Photo: Brose Baskets Bamberg

Brose Baskets Bamberg center Tibor Pleiss called the hype surrounding NBA a “curse” and said he’s not interested in critics just looking at his statistics. The Oklahoma City Thunder No. 31 draft pick from 2010 has started to stay up into the night to watch what he hopes are his future teammates while he works on developing his game and avoids thinking about the pressure surrounding him and slowing climbs the mountain to the peak that is the NBA.

heinnews’s good friend Haruka Gruber chatted with the 22-year-old Pleiss for the German language sports portal spox.com. Here are some of the highlights, translated into English for those non-German speakers.

After the EuroBasket you extended your contract with Bamberg for one year. But the hoped step towards a world class center has not come about. Do you agree?
Pleiss: Our team performance is satisfactory. But it’s true, I could be more satisfied with my own performance. There are reasons for that. In the past two years we have played with practically the same formation. Now we added two great players to the front court in Marcus Slaughter and PJ Tucker, who I had to get used to. It took some time until I was accustomed to my role.

Some critics see your numbers – 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks – and say you are not developing your game.
Pleiss: I don’t care about all the critics. Those who only look at points and rebounds to determine development do not understand what basketball is about. You can have a good game without having good stats. (Bamberg coach) Chris Fleming is satisfied – and that is the decisive criteria.

What consequences does Bamberg not advancing to the Top 16 in the Euroleague have on your NBA ambitions? Your goal was to go to the NBA after your contract with Bamberg runs out in 2012.
Pleiss: I am concentrating solely on this season. I will have enough time this summer for pondering and headaches.

But are you in communications with the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Pleiss: Since the end of the lockout I am in close contact with them. We email about every other day. At the beginning I talked with general manager Sam Presti as well, otherwise everything goes through scout Rob Hennigan, who has followed me for years and recommended me back then.

Earlier you were not interested in the NBA. Has that changed?
Pleiss: For sure. I always look at the results and in the future will get Thunder DVDs sent to me. Recently I stayed up a little later and watched a game live. I am really happy how great the Thunder have started.

Like you, Ricky Rubio remained in Europe and is now playing in the NBA with a lot of success despite nearly no pre-season. What does that mean for you?
Pleiss: Ricky is a sensation. I played against him in the U18s and thought it was incredible how much understanding he had for basketball. And he’s one year younger than me. He gives me hope. He initially decided to stay in Europe and then went to the NBA when he had matured. Maybe that will work for me as well.

German playmaker Per Günther said he is not unhappy that he was not in the media focus as a supposed super talent in German basketball. Do you understand what he means by that?
Pleiss: Absolutely! I experienced it myself when you cannot just develop at your own pace because there is a hype. It comes suddenly and increases with such speed. People demand more than you are capable of. You don’t realize that at first and put yourself under more pressure. Giving yourself more time is often the better alternative. The hype is naturally a form of compliment. Still it is too much when too much is expected.

Is the hype surrounding the NBA not a blessing but a curse?
Pleiss: Maybe not exclusively, but the hype is also a curse. You tell yourself: I have to be good! I have to be better! I have to be the top star now! That leads to nothing. I believe I have taken the first step in the right direction, but more have to follow. I compare my career with climbing a mountain. The steep direct way to the top does not work. First I have to go left then right. If there is something in my way then I may have to go backwards and take a different turn. That’s how I want to climb to the peak.

You almost sound like a wise old man. Have you finally grown up?
Pleiss: I am on the way. I went through a stage in which not everyone was behind me. I learned from that to see things differently and not let everything get to me.

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