|02 April 2013|
|Maciej Lampe assures he will team up with fellow Polish big man Marcin Gortat at the EuroBasket in Slovenia|
By Dimitris Kontos
Last month, following a season-ending right foot injury, Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat told reporters in the USA that he would "definitely consider not going to the national team again and playing another 20 games in the off-season."
Gortat's importance to Poland cannot possibly be overstated; the big man averaged a monstrous double-double of 21.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in last summer's Qualification Round to lead the team to EuroBasket 2013.
The other linchpin of the Polish team, Gortat's frontcourt partner Maciej Lampe, had skipped the Qualification Round as he was nursing an injury that dogged him throughout last season. Crucially, he was also absent from the last EuroBasket, in 2011.
A realistic Polish fan would point out that if neither Gortat nor Lampe were to board the flight to Slovenia in September, Poland's chances of advancing beyond the First Round at the EuroBasket would diminish significantly.
But expectation in sport can shift rapidly, at the blink of an eye.
Sometimes, just a couple of words can be enough - such as a positive affirmation by a key player.
Lampe, speaking exclusively to fibaeurope.com, sent exactly this message of tranquillity to Polish fans:
"Yes, I'm going to play," he stated briefly but firmly, when asked whether he had considered his participation at the EuroBasket.
There is hardly time to mention the recent developments concerning Gortat before the Caja Laboral Vitoria forward/center interrupts decisively:
"He'll play too," he says firmly.
"I'll call him and he'll come," he adds, with a look of determination that leaves no room for doubt this phone call will take place.
If that conversation goes well, Lampe and Gortat will join the rest of the Polish team under the orders of recently-appointed head coach Dirk Bauermann and go up against Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Georgia and the Czech Republic in First Round Group C.
"It's a nice group, Slovenia are the hosts and Spain are the European champions," said Lampe.
"So it's going to be tough, but it's also going to be exciting.
"And, hopefully, we'll be able to surprise them."
To some observers, even with the dynamic frontcourt duo in their ranks, Poland will still not be favourites to clinch a top-three finish in that group and qualify to the EuroBasket Second Round.
"They are right, we are not," Lampe agrees without a trace of hesitation.
"It's clear, they [Spain, Slovenia and Croatia] have had more success than us in the past and they are the favourites, not us."
Caja Laboral are currently in second place in the Spanish Liga Endesa and it would take a minor miracle for them to finish below third, at worse, in the Regular Season.
In the Turkish Airlines Euroleague however, the Basque club is facing Montepaschi Siena in a must-win clash for both teams on the final day of the Top 16.
It has taken a fantastic 86-82 road win at Khimki Moscow Region last week, behind a 21-point display by Lampe, for the Vitoria side to still be in contention for a spot in the Euroleague play-offs.
The Polish star does not want to see this effort going to waste and has no problem if this means his season will be prolonged.
"Right now I am focusing on the Euroleague game on Thursday," Lampe admitted.
"When the time comes for the EuroBasket, I will start thinking about that and see how things are looking."
Lampe averages 13.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in the Euroleague and 12.8 points with 4.7 boards in the Liga Endesa this season.