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BASKETBALL

Nowitzki hoping to lead Germany to glory at EuroBasket

The pressure is on. Fans expect Dirk Nowitzki to propel Germany to victory at the FIBA European Basketball Championship starting this week, but the NBA star sees the tournament more as a chance for team development.

Nowitzki hoping to lead Germany to glory at EuroBasket
Photo: DPA

All eyes will be on Nowitzki as he heads with the German national team to Lithuania for this year’s EuroBasket. The winner of this year’s NBA Finals, for which he was also named most valuable player (MVP), on Sunday received Germany’s Silver Laurel, the highest honour bestowed on national athletes.

“I know that everybody wants to prove themselves to the Finals MVP, but that doesn’t bother me,” Nowitzki said on Monday.

More important to him is the opportunity for his German teammates to benefit from the upcoming tournament.

“We have to make sure that the other players profit from this,” he said.

Germany’s goal for the EuroBasket, which runs August 31 to September 18, is qualification for the 2012 London Olympics. Nowitzki, as well as fellow NBA player Chris Kaman, will be crucial to their bid.

However, after only three weeks of holiday, minimal preparation with the national team and knee injury concerns, Nowitzki’s less-than-top form has raised questions about Germany’s chances.

“I hope that I’ll be as close to 100 percent as possible,” Nowitzki said. “I can still improve, but I’m noticing that it’s getting better from game to game.”

Germany coach Dirk Bauermann examined the situation after Sunday’s victory against Macedonia in a friendly game.

“Dirk is not yet fit enough to make it possible for us to go a long way, but he’ll flip the switch,” Bauermann said. “Dirk is a warrior, who will give us everything he has. And luckily that’s quite a lot.”

Bauermann admitted that Germany remained a long shot to win the European championship, and Nowitzki named Spain as tournament favourite. But the team was still hoping for a strong showing against Israel on Wednesday night in the first round.

“A good start will be very important for us,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve almost always started with good performances when we had success later on. In 2005, we also had a great game against Italy after weak preparation, even though we lost.”

The two finalists at the championship in Lithuania will automatically qualify for the Olympics, while third to sixth-place finishers will enter a qualifying tournament.

DPA/The Local/emh

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OFFBEAT

Turkish fans brawl at wheelchair match in Germany

A mass brawl at a wheelchair basketball match in Germany between supporters of Turkish clubs Galatasaray and Besiktas left seven fans needing hospital treatment, police have confirmed.

Turkish fans brawl at wheelchair match in Germany
A file picture of an unrelated wheelchair basketball match. Photo: DPA

The fight erupted on Saturday afternoon during the Champions Cup game when around 60 supporters from the two clubs attacked each other using knives and baseball bats in the sports hall in Zwickau, near Chemnitz, but there were no serious injuries.

“The game had to be abandoned and seven fans were taken to nearby hospitals. Six of them were released after receiving treatment,” said a police spokesman in a statement.

A bus-load of around 50 supporters left the sports hall immediately after the fighting broke out and were briefly detained by police near Erfurt, which is 120 kilometres west of Zwickau, while their bus was searched.

Police are investigating.

This is not the first time violence has broken out between fans of the rival Turkish clubs, who are both based in Istanbul, at a wheelchair basketball match.

In 2012, 10 supporters were arrested after a clash during a game in Istanbul when fans sprayed fire extinguishers at each other and police used tear gas to break up the fighting on the basketball court.