Basketball players proud despite Olympic exit
The frustration about the Olympic elimination quickly gave way to pride in the achievements of Germany's basketball players. "This was a very special summer," said national coach Henrik Rödl after the 70:94 (37:44) against the overpowering Slovenians.The European champions with the brilliant steer Luka Doncic were at least one number too big on Tuesday in Saitama, the first time reaching an Olympic semifinal for a German team was never realistic. And yet, Rödl said after what may be his last game as head coach, "Everyone walks out of here with their heads held high and their chests broad."
After all, qualifying for the Summer Games with the world's twelve best representatives alone was a huge success for the German Basketball Federation team. The first time since 2008, the first time since 1992 even in the knockout round. And that despite the fact that seasoned NBA pros like Dennis Schröder, Daniel Theis and Maximilian Kleber were not available.
"I'm going home with a good feeling that all the hard work was worth it," said winger Danilo Barthel: "We represented basketball Germany well." Maodo Lo added, "We can build on this to establish ourselves in Europe and also worldwide. As a nation to be taken seriously."
The DBB team made it to the round of the best eight at the Olympics for only the third time ever in front of an empty crowd at the Saitama Super Arena. In 1984 in Los Angeles they were eliminated by the host USA, eight years later in Barcelona, the Commonwealth of Independent States was too strong.
In Japan, a win in the preliminary round against Nigeria was enough to qualify for the battle for the medals as one of the two best third-placed teams in the group. The two matches against Italy and medal contender Australia were lost. "Until today, we always had a chance to win in the games and presented ourselves well," Rödl summed up.
Against Slovenia it looked different: "That was an opponent we couldn't get under control here at the end." Maodo Lo was the best scorer in the German team with eleven points, while Zoran Dragic (27) and Doncic (20) stood out on the other side.
The 22-year-old from the Dallas Mavericks shone this time not as a merciless scorer as in the Olympic opener, when he scored 48 points against Argentina, but above all as a clever team player with eleven assists. "You can't expect to completely shut someone like that down," Rödl said of what is currently perhaps the best player in the world.
Now, after four years in office, the head coach must also deal with his own future, because his contract ends when he leaves. It has not yet been clarified whether he will be allowed to continue or whether there will be a change in personnel. "We will sit down together, that's what we agreed," said the 52-year-old, who has been in office since 2017.
Before the Olympic qualifiers at the beginning of July, it was considered an open secret that the DBB was looking for a new coach with a view to the home European Championships in 2022 with a preliminary round in Cologne and the final round in Berlin. But regardless of who will be on the sidelines in the future, the future of German basketball could also be a positive one with a view to the European Championship 2022 with a preliminary round in Cologne and the final round in Berlin.
"If we can bring back together all the talent that has been missing here in some cases, then maybe we can take the next step again," Rödl also said. Franz Wagner (19), who has just been drafted to the NBA, is just one of the candidates with prospects for a great future.
The current team will remain in Tokyo until Friday. The world federation Fiba provides in case of Corona cases in other teams and they can no longer play. Rödl and Co. want to enjoy the days in Japan. Due to the strict Corona rules, visits to other sports are not allowed, but: "I watch everything that's on TV. I have interest in all directions," said Rödl.It was "a dream come true that we made it to the Olympics so unexpectedly," he emphasized again: "We are super proud to have been here."
Image by Sergey Gorbachev