Former Real Madrid/current Los Angeles Lakers scout Antonio Maceiras visited Germany last week, including a stop in Bamberg to watch Brose Baskets destroy TBB Trier (no, seriously: Just look at this box score). Naturally, this gave BallinEurope contributor David Hein the opportunity to chat with the man about working for the Los Angeles Lakers and with his old compadre Ettore Messina; the state of European basketball; and what the Lake Show might do about that bugaboo of a no. 3 spot, among other topics.

Most significantly from BiE’s perspective, however, was Maceiras’ take on Germany’s ambitious Bundesliga. From a European hoops expert’s standpoint, his quote was intriguing indeed.

Said Maceiras: “When I was coming to the gym [tonight], I was thinking Germany is really the biggest hope for European basketball, if not the latest hope. I think the organization here is great. The teams are real professional organizations and very consistent. And this is the biggest market in Europe. And also the ethics of the German people is great for basketball. The combination is excellent. It’s just a matter of keeping the development that German basketball started some years ago. I think the league is getting better all the time. The teams are good and the organization of the games is good. The attendance is good. And I think this Bayern Munich project is something that can really push not just German but European basketball. So, in my opinion, they are going in the right [direction], and if they keep going how they are going then they have all the tools to become the best domestic league in Europe.”

As for European player development, Maceiras sees little more than continued improvement: “I think the European players’ level is continually improving. You just need to look and see how many Europeans are playing in the NBA. Some people think this is because the American players’ level went down, but it’s not that. And you also realize this when you watch international competitions. European players are becoming better and better and you are finding more and more talented players. I think European basketball needs to find a consistent organization [and] consistent national leagues, to be the sport they deserve to be.”

The entire heinnews interview with Maceiras may be read here, but certainly the news of greatest interest to Lakers and NBA fans does not appear on the webpage. While Hein closed the interview with an effort to elicit the target of the Lakers’ fancy on this particular trip, Maceiras dodged with “I prefer to not talk about that, but you could just check the ages of the players.”

In a subsequent chat with between yours truly and Mr. Hein, the sportswriter guessed that, though Maceiras didn’t say so, he was at the game to see Trier’s Maik Zirbes. And since Mr. Hein is A Man Who Knows Things, BiE will definitely give this conjecture some credence.

“So,” comes the cry from So Cal, “who is this Maik Zirbes?”

Well, checking the age as suggested, BiE can tell you Zirbes turned 22 in late January. Already the starting center for Trier, Zirbes’ 2.07-meter (6’9½”) height would probably force him out to a forward spot in the NBA. Luckily, his shooting touch – scorching hot as of late with a 69.6% (39-of-56) success rate in his past eight Bundesliga games – and rebounding (Zirbes is averaging 6.8 boards per game, including 3.0 offensively) seem to indicate the necessarily versatility in the frontcourt.

Plus, Zirbes’ hops are good enough to have earned him entry into the BEKO BBL dunking contest as part of Germany’s all-star game festivities in January.

In terms of international play, just last week the FIBA Europe official website speculated that Zirbes might be on Svetislav Pesic’s shortlist for the Team Germany roster heading into Eurobasket 2013. Zirbes was last seen on the pan-Continental stage in 2010 as part of Germany’s FIBA U20 European Championship Men’s side; in that tournament, he started in all nine games for Deutschland, averaging a line of 11.7 ppg and 6.8 rbg.

From the Trusted Opinions file, EuropeanProspects noted back in December – following the previous Bamberg-Trier meeting, in fact – that Zirbes was “playing an excellent season so far.” Zirbes, explains the site, “mainly scores out of pick-and-roll situations created by his PG Dru Joyce. [Zirbes] rolls well to the basket and knows how to open up for either the direct pass out of the pick or with the opening pass to the wing player. He has good hands and can finish these plays around the basket with either the strong dunk (when open) or the more finesse play on the layup…

“[What] Zirbes has improved, though, is his game in the low post. He scored several times over Tibor Pleiß in a variety of ways. He started with a nice left-handed hook shot and then had a Olajuwonesque low post move with two fakes and a double spin to get open. This move was very impressive and we have never seen him do anything like that before. In the second half, Zirbes also opened up against Pleiß to play him face-to-face and beat him on the dribble over the baseline to score with the foul…

“On the defensive end, Zirbes has improved his boxing out but remains a limited rebounder [...] He only averages 3.6 defensive rebounds in nearly 29 minutes on the court which is not great. However, he has a very good 3.2 offensive boards per game which gives him a multitude of second chances. The main weakness, though, remains his lateral speed and defensive footwork where he gets beat quite often. He is not able to stop big guys who face him to play the drive. He often has to commit fouls in these situations which is a problem for him and the team. In the long term, he needs to work on this…

“Overall, Zirbes can become an option for some NBA teams that want to take a gamble in the second round even if he lacks a bit of size for the top level. After two seasons with good numbers and minutes in Trier, the next season might become crucial for him as he has to decide if he feels ready for making the next step and trying himself out on a Eurocup/Euroleague level team or stay another season close to his roots.”

The ever-reliable DraftExpress, meanwhile, has Zirbes at no. 5 within its international class of 1990 rankings as of early February, up from a previous standing at no. 17.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,