Maxi Kleber: Trying to gain momentum

Jan 10, 2017 by Maxi Kleber - Munich, Germany Print
Maxi Kleber: Trying to gain momentum

We opened the Top 16 with a very big win, for many reasons, but mainly because we won on the road against a strong team, ratiopharm Ulm, that right now is unbeaten in the German League. They are having a really great season after keeping their main players from last year. Ulm is really good team right now and it was very important to beat them and get this first road win. It is especially tough to win there, so we are really happy about it. We played really good defense in Ulm. It was probably not a fun game to watch for fans, because we were really trying to make as many defensive stops as we could. This is the key for us: if we are not having a good day offensively, we can win games with our defense, and this is what we did in Ulm. It will also be the key for us in upcoming games, to keep playing a high-level of defense, especially when we play against Khimki next week. They are a really good team offensively and we have to make sure that our defense is on point.

I had a good game in Ulm, which wouldn't matter if we didn't get the win, of course. I came off an injury-troubled season but took the summer off and did not play for my national team. It was a tough decision for me because I really like to play, but I took that time to rest and rehab. I didn't touch the ball for six to eight weeks and worked on my body. It was a good decision because right now, I am feeling better than ever. I don't have any injury problems and have played every game and attended every practice this season. I am feeling really well. I am not afraid to go out there after what happened, you can't really prevent everything. I had bad luck and am over with it, so I am happy to be playing right now and to be in good shape. When I am on the court, I don't really think about anything on the past, but try to give everything I have, give my best without thinking about anything else.

It is great to play with a solid big man like Devin Booker. He had played in France until now and this is his first 7DAYS EuroCup season. He was the French League MVP last season, so when he came here, we were sure he had skills – and he has shown them right away. He is a very athletic guy who can shoot the ball. He has a good touch. He also knows how to use his body and that gives our opponents problems, because he is a small 'five' but quicker and more athletic than the other guys. Devin uses his athleticism really well and can jump really high. For us, if he has a good game, it can only be good for the team. A lot of players have been successful in Europe at the 'five' position being undersized, but making that up with strength and athleticism. If Devin can keep his opponent away from the basket, that player will have a tough time because he is very quick and understands the game really well. He knows how to position himself to get an advantage, all the time. And of course, he is a great dunker. You probably saw it in games, but he can jump just as high in practices. You don't wanna jump with him when he goes up because he is going to dunk on you!

Since this is my first blog, I will answer a question I usually get. Yes, I am from Würzburg, just like Dirk Nowitzki, but I cannot be compared to him. I had this question a lot of times in my career and the answer is: "There is only one Dirk Nowitzki." What he has accomplished is amazing and I think he is an unique player. I just try to be the best player I can be, but I guess people compare us because I am tall, shoot the ball, play as stretch 'four' and was born in the same city as Dirk. I am just myself and try to work on my game. Of course, you can take some advice and some skills that he has, but I am a different type of player. We met a couple of times but I was actually too young. When I started playing basketball, he was already in the U.S. and only came here for a short time in summer. I am not really close to him but for instance, when I got injured, I wanted to play for the national team and he was there. He wished me good luck and to get healthy sooner, which was cool.

Like I said, we will play against Khimki next week. They have all the right to be one of the favorites to win the EuroCup this season. They have a great team and play good basketball. Again, defense has to be our main focus going into this game. We know it is going to be tougher because they have a really good offensive team but we have to make sure we get as many defensive stops as possible. Of course, we count on our fans to make the difference and help us a lot. We need their support in this very tough game. It would be great to get this win and go up to 2-0. Winning in the EuroCup is always tough and doing it at home is a must. We want to make sure we get this one and fan support is always a big plus. We will face Lietkabelis twice after that, and I hope no one thinks they are a weak team. You should never underestimate a team at this level. They have experienced players and have played good basketball until now. You always have to try to play at your best level and give all you got. When you think you will win a game any way, that is when you lose. In this competition, every team has a chance to beat anybody.

I think we have a good chance to go far in the EuroCup, but we need to go game by game and see where it takes us. We have to focus on every game, take it seriously and try to win it. That way, we will have a chance to move forward in the competition. I think we have the team for this and we have to show it on the court. Again, we need all the support we can get from Bayern fans, a packed gym and the loudest atmosphere we ever got at Audi Dome to get a win against Khimki! See you there!