LAS VEGAS — Dennis Schroder knew he was up against the clock.
“I watched until the 70-minute mark, then I went to the game,” the Atlanta Hawks’ 2013 first-round pick said.
He was in Las Vegas with the Hawks’ Summer League team and they had a game Sunday evening, taking him away from watching his countrymen in the FIFA World Cup final against Argentina.
“We watched it in the locker room a little bit,” said Schroder, who grew up playing soccer before he took up basketball. The Hawks, though, had to take the floor before the match got to the 113th minute, when Mario Goetze scored to give Germany the 1-0 lead and the championship.
“It’s always good when our nation wins a world championship or a European championship,” Schroder said.
The 20-year-old won’t get the chance to compete on the world stage later this summer as a full-fledged member of the German national team. The Germans did not qualify for the FIBA World Cup (which until now has been called simply the world championships) in Spain.
The Germans weren’t helped by the fact Dirk Nowitzki has not played for the national team since 2011 in the European championships when Germany failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
Schroder, the first native German drafted in the first round since Nowitzki went No. 9 in 1998, will play for Germany in the 2015 European championships with hopes of getting his country back to the Olympics for the first time since Nowitzki led them to the 2008 Beijing Games. Schroder has hinted in recent interviews that Nowitzki could decide to play once again in an effort to get the country to Brazil in 2016.
But before all of that, the 6-foot-2 point guard is focused on his NBA career and carving out a consistent spot in second-year coach Mike Budenholzer‘s rotation. Schroder played in 49 games last season and went through long stretches of watching from the bench.
The level of competition, Schroder said, was an intense eye-opener after playing two years professional in his home country where at times he could put in cruise control, yet still be the best player on the floor.
“You have to compete every night and I think that was the biggest adjustment for me is to compete every night against the best point guards in the world,” Schroder said. “That was the toughest thing to do.”
There is opportunity for Schroder behind starting point guard Jeff Teague. The Hawks traded Lou Williams to Toronto, leaving Shelvin Mack, as his prime competition.
Schroder is a quick penetrator and a primarily pass-first point guard whose shooting need works. He can be flashy and breathtaking with a first step that darts him toward the basket. His lightning-quick first step might be the reason he showed up to Vegas with a gold stripe running through the front of his hair.
“It’s me,” Schroder said of the stripe. “Everybody knows it’s me.”
The goal is for everybody to know who he is by his play on the floor. So far in Las Vegas, he has delivered both up and down performances. He put up a highlight-reel effort with 30 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line in Sunday’s double-overtime loss. However, he also had eight turnovers in 32 minutes against a team made up exclusively of D-League players.
Through three games Schroder’s averaging 18.0 ppg and 3.3 apg. He’s shooting 44.7 percent (17-for-38), which is an improvement over his 38.3 percent last season (23.8 percent from 3). The No. 17 overall draft pick last summer is a skilled and confident player, but he also knows there is work to be done before he reports to training camp in October looking to play a much more significant role for the Hawks.
“What I’m working on is leading a team, talking to them, and try to focus on my shot a little, 3s and 2s, but the biggest thing is lead the team,” Schroder said. “I don’t worry about it [his role next season]. I worry about practicing hard and try to do the things that I can control.”