Blackman And Germany Can Relax Over Dirk

28 August 2003

Blackman, one of Germany boss Henrik Dettmann's assistant coaches, admits Dirk Nowitzki threw a huge scare into the national team at the weekend when he limped off the court in the game against France with an ankle injury.

France went on to win the contest as Germany, without their talisman, looked a pale shadow of the side which many expect to contend for honours in Sweden next month at the European Championships.

"It worried us a little bit because he's such a great player and he changes the balance of every game he´s in," Blackman, a long-time star with the Dallas Mavericks, told PA International.

"But he will be okay and healthy, so that's the number one thing and good for him.

"And he will be able to help his team in its quest for the European Championship.

"(If) You´re a basketball player, that means you have a chance of getting ankle injuries. You just hope to stay healthy."

If anyone was sweating over Nowitzki's fitness more than those in the German camp it was the seven-footer's club back in the NBA, Dallas.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressed frustration over Nowitzki playing for his country.

An injury prevented Nowitzki from finishing the Mavs' Western Conference semi-final series against the San Antonio Spurs, which Dallas ultimately lost.

"I can understand Mark's point," Blackman said.

"He's spending a great deal of business finance to have a star player to be ready for his basketball season.

"I understand it and it's and important. It's hard to strike the balance because for the players it is very important to play for their country.

"Dirk is first and foremost a basketball player and he´s also trying to play for his country, so he's had to strike the balance. Those things are very difficult to pull away from. He's playing for a team in the NBA and wants to do well there, too."

Germany are uncertain if Nowitzki will be able to play against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday when they continue their buildup to the European Championships with a warm-up game in Cologne.

Their opponents should present a stiff test.

Bosnia-Herzegovina were the only team to beat Germany in qualifying, and they have also earned a place at Eurobasket.

"It's against such opposition that we still have problems," Dettmann admitted, referring to the physical strength of the Bosnians.

"Therefore the game is a perfect test of strength for us."

After Friday's game, Germany will host Italy in the Max Schmeling hall in Berlin in their final warm-up game before departing for the championships in Sweden which tip-off on September 5.

The Azzurri have turned into formidable side this summer.

They will arrive in Germany with a full head of steam after winning the prestigious Efes Pilsen World Cup II tournament in Istanbul where they beat Russia in a semi-final before knocking out hosts Turkey in the title game.

"Italy is a strong opponent," Dettman said.

"They have played very well this season so far but we'll be well prepared."

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