At the Los Angeles Lakers, things went badly for Dennis Schröder at the first attempt – in the end, there was scorn and ridicule. Now the best German basketball player is back and wants to repeat what he already achieved with the national team.
In Germany, national player Dennis Schröder has polished up his reputation with the strong European Championship and the unexpected bronze medal – now the Los Angeles Lakers should get to know him properly. “For the Natio, I put that right. But now there’s the next mission here, it won’t be easy,” the 29-year-old told Deutsche Presse-Agentur after returning to the Californian metropolis. “We have what it takes and I’m trying everything in my power to get it right, just like I did in the Natio. “
Schröder already played for the NBA record holders in the 2020/2021 season. In a season still largely without a crowd due to the Corona pandemic, the then defending champions were already eliminated in the first play-off round against the Phoenix Suns. Although LeBron James and Anthony Davis were often injured and the team was thus missing its most important players, it was above all the point guard from Germany who was criticised afterwards.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson even went so far as to shout after him: “Schröder? I don’t think he’s a Laker.” The fact that he also turned down an offer from the Lakers of, according to media reports, 84 million US dollars for four years, preferring to negotiate a new contract as a player on a free transfer, caused additional scorn and ridicule – because instead of earning even more money, as he probably hoped, he ended up signing with the Boston Celtics for 5.9 million US dollars and a season.
After his first workout for the Lakers, Schröder took a stand on both issues Monday. He gave the same explanation to reporters in Los Angeles that he had previously referred to elsewhere: “There was never a contract and I never turned anything down.” On the sidelines of the Lakers’ preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a senior Lakers decision-maker confirmed this account to the German Press Agency on Wednesday evening (local time). At the time, Schröder’s advisers were approached about contract talks, but Schröder’s side did not want to negotiate until the summer.
Schröder wants the title with the Lakers
But Schröder himself also experienced the first months with the glamour team in the American entertainment capital as “weird”. “That’s why I said I’m playing here for free too. Just to set the record straight and get everyone on the right track,” he said. “There’s unfinished business here and we have to take care of it and win the title, that’s the goal.”
Asked about Johnson’s comments, he initially just shrugged. “I’ve never met Magic Johnson and I’ve never seen him. I would never judge and talk about someone as a grown man if I didn’t know them,” he finally said. “What people say on the outside who are not there, what can I say. That’s just also about being relevant with the media. I try to focus on what’s in front of me and what I can control. “
Good connection with new coach
The chances that it will work better in the second attempt in the legendary yellow jersey with the purple numbers are good. Because the Lakers’ coach since this season is Darvin Ham, with whom Schröder already worked for five years with the Atlanta Hawks. “I’ve known him since day one as a rookie,” Ham said. “He’s like family to me.”
For Schröder, Ham is “the main reason, if I’m honest,” for a second shot at LA. He also refers to him as “family”. Ham, for his part, sees Schröder’s strong EM in particular as the decisive factor that those responsible around Lakers manager Rob Pelinka were interested in working together again. “His performances this summer have been nothing short of incredible. It shows his maturity, how he’s led the team,” Ham praised. “Not just the stats, but his energy, how he’s held the group together through the tournament, it clearly shows how much he’s grown. “
James: “I’m not worried about Dennis “
LeBron James also followed Schröder’s strong performance in the summer and was therefore not at all concerned that the number 17 did not hit any of his throws in the comeback and also did not produce an assist in his nine and a half minutes. “I’m not worried about Dennis,” James said. “He’s played enough basketball, we just have to look for him to catch up,” James said, referring to the missed practice sessions.
It remains to be seen whether Schröder will be in the starting lineup for the season opener on October 18 against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. He has missed a lot of preparation time, plus the Lakers have also signed Patrick Beverley at his position and keep controversial Russell Westbrook under contract. In any case, Schröder’s motivation won’t be the issue. “I will do everything for a win and to settle this score,” he emphasised. So that the people in Los Angeles are just as excited about him at the end of the season as the fans of the German national team.