By David Hein
The saying goes: "There's no I in team". There´s no better case in point than Germany at the 2005 EuroBasket.
Dirk Nowitzki's take on that saying may be something like: "I will carry you, but we have to win as a team."
The Dallas Mavericks forward is by far the team leader and go-to guy for coach Dirk Bauermann. But Nowitzki alone cannot win games.
"I think we've surprised a lot of people - not only by finishing second (in Group A) but also how we've played," Bauermann said. "We're playing really good team defense and good team ball. And in different games, different guys are hitting big shots."
Bauermann's troops had to overcome a series of injuries during the buildup to this tournament, most importantly to Ademola Okulaja. The national team veteran is a small forward who can be a force in the paint as well as a scoring threat from the outside.
|Patrick Femerling gave Germany some much needed offense against Italy|
"After all the injuries, the team has pulled together very well. We're enjoying some deserved success," the coach said.
Still, Bauermann has been left looking for guys to pick up the scoring slack alongside Nowitzki. And the search always ends up with someone new helping out.
Patrick Femerling scored 18 points against Italy and 10 against Ukraine. Against Turkey, Pascal Roller hit two big three pointers while Mithat Demirel and Robert Maras combined for 10 fourth-quarter points in the come-from-behind victory.
"We don't say it's your turn," Maras said. "We just let the coach make the playing decisions and try to contribute however we can. And that's the same for all of us."
Still Bauermann hopes someone can step up a bit more - Germany have had only three double digit performances besides Nowitzki, who is leading the tournament in scoring (27.8 ppg) and rebounds (12.3 rpg).
"We need one guy, maybe two who can contribute more to the offense as well," Bauermann said. "Sooner or later somebody's going to figure out a way to shut down Dirk."
Among Germany's strengths are their heart, determination and teamwork.
As Turkish coach Bogdan Tanjevic saw first hand: "To see the Russia game, coming back from 16 down in a low scoring game - that's like 26 in a normal game - it shows they have great heart."
Nowitzki doesn't ask for any perferential treatment - not at lunch or in the trainer's room. And he laughs and jokes with his team-mates at every practice.
Nowitzki said the team chemistry is positive at the moment, adding: "It seems to be really good. We're always having a good time and joking around with one another. We're all okay with one another and enjoy being with one another."
German guard Demond Greene said: "It's important to go out as a team. With such wins against Russia and Turkey, the atmosphere is even better."
Greene said one of the keys to Germany's success is their willingness to sacrifice their individual for the good of the team.
"We're all good players. But of course everybody has to take a little step back from their roles in the club," said Greene, a scorer on the club level in Germany who Bauermann has called upon to play more of a defensive role.
Again, there's no "I" in "team"