Around this time last year, Fraport Skyliner Danilo Barthel could have been taking part at his first German national team training camp at Kienbaum at the city limits of Berlin, but instead was quietly and as always 100% focused working diligently in humid uncomfortable gyms on getting totally healthy again as he had experienced extreme back problems towards the end of the 2012-2013 BBL season. If someone had whispered to him last summer that he would be playing in front of the eyes of Michigan legend Juwan Howard and Boston Celtic general manager and member of the historic 80s Celtic teams Danny Ainge , the decent and conservative German probably would have told you to jump into the Neckar river flowing by his native city Heidelberg to cool off and get some common sense. However a year later on July 5th, 2014, Danilo Barthel made his NBA debut against the Boston Celtics even if it was only an NBA Summer League game. The basketball life of the 22 year old 207cm forward from the Fraport Skyliners has had a massive turn up the basketball scale in the last year. The only thing missing from a high striker commonly seen at a carnival and to have the bell at the top be rung would have been if the Fraport Skyliners had at least reached the playoffs, but injuries and not winning crunch time games disallowed the 2004 Beko BBL champion to reaching the promised land again since their last visit in 2011. However other than that, it was an amazing year for Danilo Barthel who went from 2012-2013 stats of 4.3ppg, 2.9rpg to stats of 11.3ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 57.4%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 78.4% in 34 games in 2013-2014. Barthel had to take responsibility last season and did scoring in double figures in 21 games including a 25 point outburst in a biter 82-81 loss in Braunschweig. Barthel was a common fixture in the starting five of head coach Gordon Herbert and his season wasn´t a fluke as he was rewarded with Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga Most Improved Player, Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga Honorable Mention and Eurobasket.com German Bundesliga All-Domestic Players Team. If his extra ordinary good season warranted an automatic invitation to the NBA Summer League is hard to comment since there were a few other young Germans who also had good seasons like Daniel Theis and Elias Harris who also were invited. A main reason for Barthel being able to nip at NBA air is through the excellent work of scorers 1st Sportmangement for letting their contact prowess go to work. Not every player can go this luxury route as ex Tuebingen Tiger Michael Jenkins explains who played in Italy last season. “I’m not sure how it worked for everyone else, but for me I had to work my way onto this squad. I got invited to a 3 day free agent mini-camp the beginning of June. I played well enough there to get an invite to play in Orlando for the Brooklyn Nets
Instead of being in Berlin this July 4th weekend with his teammate Konstantin Klein and the German national team getting ready for 2014 European qualification games, he was in Orlando, Florida getting ready to take part in the 2014 Summer League with the Miami Heat that will also take him to Las Vegas after. If Barthel was able to catch some of the July 4th fire works at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando is unknown since he had to be ready for his NBA summer league debut on Saturday at 11am probably the earliest he had played a game since possibly youth basketball. Barthel had arrived in Miami a few days earlier and had the chance to practice with his temporary new teammates. Perhaps Barthel could of asked his friend Niels Giffey some advice on how to slow down a Shabazz Napier driving into the lane once he had beaten his man. Napier is the headlining name for the Miami Heat as he enters the NBA with two NCAA rings with UCONN and for the Boston Celtics it is Marcus Smart. The 2014 Miami Heat Summer League team is younger than most teams as there are guys like 2013 Atlanta Hawks draft pick James Ennis that looks like a young Patrick Flomo, Andre Dawkins from Duke or Tyler Honeycutt from UCLA. In his first NBA Summer League game, Barthel had very nameable young opponents like the two Boston Celtic 2014 first round draft picks Marcus Smart and James Young as well as guys like Chris Babb and Phil Pressey with NBA experience with the Boston Celtics. The most known player on the court was 2013 Boston Celtic first round draft pick Kelly Olynyk who was a freshman together with Bamberg forward Elias Harris at Gonzaga in 2009 is impossible not to notice on the court with his long blond hair and black head band and with his hair dyed black could have passed for ex Barthel teammate Dane Watts when observing him from behind on the fast break. Barthel wasn´t the only international player on the floor as the global flair was present with Dairis Bertans from Latvia and Nobel Boungou-Colo from the republic of the Congo.
Barthel made his 2014 NBA Summer League debut at the Orlando Magic training facility within the Amway center. It was the first game and with each team only having been together a few days, one couldn´t really expect much. Barthel entered the game for the first time near the end of the first quarter wearing #54 and sporting a full, but trim beard. One could sense quickly that the German wasn´t the main or second or even third scoring option in the Miami Heat offense, but what do you expect when you have the future of the Miami Heat Shabazz Napier running the offense. Barthel showed his proper team play qualities something he has shown in Frankfurt the last three years. On offense he did a good job moving without the ball, setting picks, grabbing key rebounds and finding the better positioned man. His first big play wasn´t a dunk or shot, but a mega block on Marcus Smart. This was possibly the first moment where assistant for player development for the Miami Heat Juwan Howard must of noticed that there are white men that can jump. In the NBA Summer League players obviously also want to display their individual skills and Barthel couldn´t hold back as he drove to the hoop as well, but put up an air ball in the second quarter. After hardly playing in the second quarter, the German returned in the third quarter and played more than half of the quarter and hit his first field goal in the NBA Summer League hitting a high rainbow from behind the top of the key something he does with regularity in the Beko BBL. An inspiring thing to see was that he didn´t hesitate from firing as he did every so often last season with the Fraport Skyliners, but shot upon arrival something he may have taken from the game of ex NBA player sniper Andrew Rautins who could hit from any corner of the building and who played four months with the German last season before getting injured. Barthel also missed a few more shots that quarter He came in in the last minute of the fourth quarter where the game was as good as decided. One noticed that Barthel got no post up assignments, but was mostly hovering around the three point line. There were also at times where he just didn´t get the ball at all in the offensive sets. The Summer League is a short period, so the German won´t have much time to get more noticed with stellar play, but it would be nice if he could get more involved in the offense. Barthel finished the game with three points, six rebounds, one steal and one block and 1/6 shooting in 13 minutes. It was a solid debut for the Heidelberg native and one thing is for sure, he can definitely compete with these aspiring NBA hopefuls. Barthel gets his next chance on Sunday when he will play against the Brooklyn Nets and guys like Mason Plumlee, Dajuan Summers, Marquis Teague and Donte Greene.