Nowitzki hoping to lead Germany to glory at EuroBasket

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

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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