EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Tim Ohlbrecht joins two Europeans in the front court of the Houston Rockets |
Germany international Tim Ohlbrecht became the latest player to join the long and ever-expanding list of Europeans in the NBA on Monday night.
The 24-year-old forward/center signed a multi-year (three-year long according to some sources) contract with the Houston Rockets and will join on the team two other European big men, Turkey's Ömer Asik and Lithuania's Donatas Motiejunas.
Ohlbrecht, who debuted with the senior German national team at the 2008 Olympics, took an unusual route towards fulfilling his NBA ambitions.
Having started his career at Leverkusen, he went on to play for Bamberg, Telekom Baskets Bonn and Skyliners Frankfurt before leaving the BEKO Bundelisga in the summer to make the leap over the Atlantic.
As he had never been drafted in the NBA, he joined Houston's affiliate team in the D-League (Development League), the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The German soon started turning heads and stood above the other big men at this level mainly because of his ability to shoot the ball from mid-range.
He leaves the Development League as the competition's leader in shooting percentage, making 60.5 percent of his shots from the field, while he also led his team in blocked shots, with 1.6 blocks per game.
In 32 games with the Vipers, he averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest and was named to the Prospects roster for the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star Game last month.
According to his agent, Ohlbrecht had turned down an offer by the Boston Celtics for a 10-day contract just last weekend, as he was confident he would eventually catch the eye of Rockets head coach Kevin McHale with his performances and get the long-term NBA deal he was seeking.
The fact that McHale, who in his playing days became an emblematic power forward on the legendary 1980s Celtics team and later joined the NBA Hall of Fame, has chosen a third European player to bolster his frontcourt is very indicative of the respect big men from Europe command in modern NBA.
Asik, along with Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic, and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls are prime contenders in the neck-to-neck race for top rebounder in the NBA this season.
The Turkish center averages 11.5 boards per game and is right now in third place on the list, just above the Montenegrin, who averages 11.4 and the Frenchman, with 11.3, while Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers is leading with 11.9 rebounds per game.
Asik also contiributes 10.5 points per game while the 22-year-old Motiejunas is gradually carving out a spot for himself and gains more playing time, averaging 3.2 points and 0.9 rebounds per contest.
When Ohlbrecht steps on the court for his debut in a Rockets jersey he will become the third German international to compete in the NBA this season, after Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, who both play for another Texan team, the 2011 NBA champions Dallas Mavericks.
Houston are in the Western Conference play-off spots right now with a 31-27 record and they are playing next on Wednesday night, at home to the Milwaukee Bucks, of Turkish forward Ersan Ilyasova.