The coach doesn’t sleep much, a teammate complains about a “shitty situation”: Franz Wagner’s injury will be a burden for the basketball players at the World Cup in Asia.
The day after the injury shock to hopeful Franz Wagner, dark clouds rolled over the Japanese dream island. Around noon, rain pelted the team hotel of the German basketball players. The at times gloomy scenery in Okinawa matched the tense mood that prevailed despite the sportingly problem-free opening World Cup victory over Japan.
“It’s a shitty situation, of course. He’s one of the most important players for us. It would be very important if he played,” said Johannes Thiemann about Wagner, who was very happy to celebrate his 22nd birthday on Sunday against co-favorite Australia (10.30 a.m Clock/Magentasport) would spend.
But the planned return will be a race against time. Wagner twisted his ankle against the host at 81:63 and was examined in the hospital that night. “Nothing broke and nothing worse ripped. So nothing that would end the World Cup,” said team doctor Oliver Pütz. An MRI scan should provide a more accurate diagnosis. The team training on Saturday was planned without the Orlando Magic professional, a mission against the ambitious Olympic bronze medalist initially remained open. “We’ll leave the foot alone for now,” added team doctor Pütz.
Herbert will prepare two plans
National coach Gordon Herbert may have to improvise for the early final to win the group against Australia. “We have two plans, we have to prepare both cases. It could give other players a chance to play a bigger role,” explained the Canadian. The ankle injury, which quickly became a much bigger issue than the solid World Championship gallop, kept Herbert busy until he slept. Because he had considered replacing Wagner in view of the clear lead.
“I had four and a half hours of sleep. Last night I was really served. I thought about whether we should have taken Franz out of the game earlier. That got on my mind. In hindsight we are smarter,” said Herbert. A failure would cause great concern for the German Basketball Association (DBB), after all, the offensively versatile Wagner is the most important player alongside Dennis Schröder. Co-captain Johannes Voigtmann said: “Obviously this is a setback for us. We have big goals and he plays a big role in our plans. If he doesn’t get fit, we have to find other solutions.”
Since the young star made his debut for Germany last year, the national team has played on a different level. An ambitious team turned into a medal contender who immediately won bronze at the home European Championships. After just two years in the NBA and just over 20 international matches, Wagner is confronted with superlatives. Bavaria’s managing director Marko Pesic sees him as the “legitimate successor to Dirk Nowitzki”, as he said at Magentasport.
Hymns of praise for Wagner
“I don’t compare the two, but he’s the greatest talent since Dirk. The best player we have if you look at the whole package,” said Pesic, who sees a bright future for the native of Berlin. “If he stays healthy, he will be able to do what Dirk Nowitzki did for the next ten years. The feeling for the game is outstanding.” In addition to silver at the 2005 European Championships, Nowitzki also won bronze at the 2002 World Championships in the national team and – a significantly less talented team than now – led to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Wagner currently has no time for such future scenarios – and no head. Australia, the key game in World Cup Group E, counts for him. “It’s an honor for him to play in the national team. He really wants to play,” said Herbert. The decision is not only made by Wagner and the German association, but also in consultation with the Orlando Magic, who have to pay Wagner’s monthly salary and give her the okay.
A win over Patty Mills and Co. would take Germany a huge step towards the finals in Manila. Reaching the intermediate round would be almost perfect after just two games, and to win the group you only need a mandatory win over Finland on Tuesday. The professionals and especially Coach Herbert have explicitly given a medal as a goal for the finals. It will need a fit Wagner for that.
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