Two years ago at EuroBasket 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, an exhausted Dirk Nowitzki leaned with both hands on the iron railing circling the packed mixed media zone at Siemens Arena after host Lithuania ousted Germany and killed Germany's chances of advancing to the 2012 Olympics in London.
It was a somber scene.
Nowitzki blamed himself for Germany’s woes. He said he was tired and he was not 100 percent in shape after coming off winning his first NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks and the whirlwind world tour that followed.
"I will just have to wait and see what the future brings," Nowitzki said at the time, as the German National Team quickly shifted the focus to a youth movement weeks after EuroBasket 2011 and to preparing for international play at EuroBasket this year in Slovenia.
The team grew up real fast.
In Germany’s opening round against France to start the European championship last Wednesday, a “Dirk-less” Deutschland and the second-youngest team in the 24-team tournament used Robin Benzing’s 19 point performance and 14 points from Lucca Staiger -- along with his solid defense down the stretch -- to shock Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and France with an 80-74 win.
Despite suffering a loss to Belgium and the Ukraine in their two following games, Germany showed on an international stage it can win big without their NBA superstar, which promptly peaked the interest of Nowitzki to consider returning to play for the national team according to reports from ESPN Dallas.
"If I'm still healthy enough and we have a chance to qualify, then I'd consider it," Nowitzki told ESPN.com late Monday, when asked about competing for Germany at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Head Coach Frank Mentz has also left the door wide open for Dirk’s return.
“He follows what we do. He has a chance and -- if we have a good team -- we might see."
While no one can doubt Nowitzki’s accomplished resume and the strength he would bring back to the national team, it is worth discussing that Dirk is not exactly what Team Germany needs moving forward.
Instead, Germany could benefit from more athleticism and creativity in the backcourt: enter Dennis Schroeder.
The 19-year old rookie guard for the Atlanta Hawks not only provides a quicker and more active option compared to Heiko Schaffartzik and Per Gunther, but Schroeder also possess the ability to break down opposing defenses and get into the paint, providing the chance to set up bigs Maik Zirbes, Tibor Pleiss, Andreas Seiferth and/or set up Benzing on the perimeter. As for defense, Schroeder’s on-ball defense is intense thanks to his long arms and foot speed.
Come 2016, Nowitzki will be 38 years old. If scoring is what Germany hopes he will bring to the team, that really is not the national teams' need – at least not right now.
Take Germany’s win over Israel for example. Four players finished in double figures, with Staiger (15 points) and Pleiss (14 points and 14 rebounds) leading the way.
Maybe Germany will get lucky leading up to Brazil and be able to land both Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroeder on the national team. But if they had their option, I say go with the kid.
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