Paul Zipser: “I had a little of bad luck in the NBA. But if you take the chance, which I did, you’ll be a better player”

Photo credits: Foto: rtr, db

FC Bayern Munich may not have done so well in this Euroleague season, whose future is still to be determined, but for Paul Zipser that’s another story. The versatile and athletic forward, who played a total of 98 games with the Chicago Bulls between 2016 and 2018 averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17 minutes of action, returned to the club and the city that had virtually initiated his career. Over 28 Euroleague games, he showcased career-best numbers in points (8.5), rebounds (3.4) and PIR (8.1), albeit obviously lacking consistency as he had quite a few bad nights.

Zipser played for Bayern from 2013 till 2016, his stint coinciding with now FC Barcelona’s coach Svetislav Pesic. However, when Pesic was asked in the summer of 2019 by German website SPORT1 about his ex-player’s choices, he replied: “Zipser returned where he belongs. He doesn’t belong to the NBA. As soon as he let me know about his intention to go there, I told him: “You’re happy now, but I’m not. Stay [in Europe] for a year or two”. He’s one of the greatest talents in Germany, but he must stop thinking about the NBA. FC Bayern Munich is the NBA for Zipser and he should look at it this way”.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion about him, Paul Zipser matured into a BBL and national player before he was picked 48th by the Chicago Bulls in the 2016 NBA draft. Last season, the now 26-year-old played for Burgos in the Spanish ACB after an injury break in January.

The Heidelberg native sat with TalkBasket.net for an interview that took place last January, long before the coronavirus pandemic. His return to Munich, Pesic’s remarks, his personal development as a player and an outline of his NBA experience were among the topics of discussion.

Q: Do you think that Bayern Munich has become the focal point for all German players? The club seems to have built bridges to the NBA, bringing players like Derrick Williams, Josh Huestis and Greg Monroe to Europe for the first time.

A: In general, last summer a lot of former NBA players went to Europe and the Euroleague. Of course, Bayern did the same and that’s very good for the international and European basketball.

Q: Was it an easy decision for you to return?

A: It’s never easy, but as soon as I saw it as a future opportunity, I was really looking forward to this. I felt homey at first when I came here. So, coming back, having so many friends here and knowing the club, definitely makes it feel like this.

Q: Before going to the NBA, did you use to watch Dirk Nowitzki with Dallas?

A: Of course. Everybody did. Actually, I came to basketball pretty late and my family is not so big in the traditional sense. However, as soon as I started playing and watching a little bit of basketball, I realized that Dirk is a hero in Germany. He has a lot of things that inspired me.

Q: In one of your interviews, you referred to some frictions between yourself and the Chicago Bulls’ doctors, concerning your injury. In 2018, you told German outlet “Sport Bild” that there was virtually no trust left in them and that you erroneously believed that because the NBA is the top league, the coaching teams and the medical staff would be perfect. What do you think of the matter now?

A: I talked about a lot of stuff. If you want to talk about this, I had so many interviews about it, especially this and last summer. So, you can quote me on those. I’m not saying anything more about this. I said a lot already.

Q: What didn’t go well in your NBA experience?

A: Wherever you go, it’s a new continent, a new culture. You like some things, you don’t like other things. It’s the same when a Serbian player goes to Italy or an American goes to Europe. One example is that the whole sports culture in America is very big. Emotions are big and everybody knows basketball on a certain level, average. That’s what I really liked in America.

Q: How different is sports culture in Europe?

A: Kids grow up in America playing basketball and everybody knows how to play the game. It’s a lot of one-on-one, talent, the game is quicker with many possessions and high scores. So, the value of each possession is not as high as in the Euroleague.

Q: Were you feeling NBA ready in 2016 when you joined the Bulls? Your ex-coach with Bayern, Svetislav Pesic, expressed the opinion that you could have played another couple of years in Europe.

A: Yeah, I was ready. That’s why I went there. You never know what could have been the best for you in the past. You always know it better afterwards. So, I think every summer I had to make a decision, I made a really good one. I live with the results.

Q: Do you see yourself in Europe permanently?

A: The last two years were wild for me, with many injuries and changes. Right now, I feel very comfortable in Munich, having more and more fun on the court as we grow as a team or if we keep growing. I don’t think about any summer decisions, wherever I go. I’ve signed with Bayern for two years and we’ll see what happens.

Q: Pesic also said that Bayern Munich should be the NBA for you. Do you feel that it is?

A: First of all, I don’t know what he means by this. So, I can’t really answer anything about it. I was in Bayern. I think I did a good job, worked every year. Then, my next stop was in the NBA, where I worked on a lot of stuff. I had a little of bad luck.

Q: Being back to the Euroleague after three years, how does the competition feel?

A: I think that the Euroleague grows very fast. Ever since I left, a lot of changes have happened. The level has grown, rules have changed and that’s a good thing. I’m trying to evolve as a player and a human being every summer and it only seems natural that I have become a better, more complete player. Also, basketball in Munich is getting bigger and bigger every year.

Q: What does it take for a player to evolve in Europe?

A: You just got to work hard, wherever you go. Both in Europe and the NBA you have so many chances to evolve. It’s not the same. As a European in the NBA, I worked on a lot of things. I can’t talk about US players that come to Europe, but in the States you’ve got so many opportunities, guys around that want to work with you and if you take the chance, which I did, you’re going to get better.