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Army of one (kind of)
by Jorge Sierra / August 9, 2002

Germany fell one foul short of reaching the European Championship final last summer. Dirk Nowitzki had a superb game against Turkey and the Germans led by three with the clock running out in the semifinals of the tournament. If they had fouled on Turkoglu, Hedo wouldn't have hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer that took the game to an overtime in which the Turkish got the victory. In Indianapolis, the Germans will look to make up for that disappointment with their first ever medal in a World Championship. And there is basically only one person able to make that happen.

THE STAR: Dirk Nowitzki

With Jason Kidd out of action for the USA, Nowitzki is arguably the best player of the tournament. If the 7-0 Mav forward displays the same attitude and performances of the last European Championship (in which he averaged 28.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game), the German team has a chance to do something interesting.

THE BACKCOURT: The playmaker Pascal Roller has some quickness, combo guard Marko Pesic has some shot, Stefano Garris has some athleticism and Mithat Demirel has some tendency to run the floor at full speed without really knowing what he is going to do with the ball next -- which is quite a bad thing being the point guard. Overall, the level of the backcourt is disappointing and not quite what you would expect for one of the top teams in Europe. No one is a great scorer or a good passer. The strength of the team lies in...

THE FRONTCOURT: Having Dirk Nowitzki would already make the frontcourt quite impressive. But the Germans have more than that. First of all, they have size. Plenty of it. Nowitzki's teammate in Dallas, Shawn Bradley, acquired the German citizenship last year and already took part in the last European Championship. You can only be optimistic about the performance of the 7-6 center in Indianapolis -- he can't do it worse than last summer. Add the 7-1 Patrick Femerling, much more skilled than Bradley though equally inconsistent, and you have an inside game to be feared.

However, Nowitzki, Bradley and Femerling may not share much time together on the floor. Forward Ademola Okulaja, close friend of Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison while in North Carolina, will probably play an average of 30 minutes per game bringing what Bradley and Femerling lack: aggressiveness. The substitute of Pau Gasol in FC Barcelona is very strong on the offensive rebound, plays with heart and is a threat down low and beyond the arc. He can't guard quick small forwards or physically gifted power forwards -that's probably the reason why he is not playing in the NBA right now-, but he will sure be the second biggest offensive contributor on the team.

STRENGTHS: They have Nowitzki, which is quite something. And they are very big.

WEAKNESSES: The only player who passes the ball well is the one that should not pass it very often. That is, Nowitzki. Their basically unidimensional offense makes the team very dependent on what Dirk can do. Nowitzki has a bad night, they are out. As simple as that. The lack of a point guard and the attitude of Bradley and Femerling will be concerns. There are also some doubts about the coaching.

WILL PLAY IN... Group C with United States, China and Algeria.

PROJECTION: Won't fight for the medals.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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