France Ready for Great Britain

I'm a French-American double-national, born and raised in the U.S., and then having spent most of my adult life in France. I played basketball until an arrhythmia stopped me at age 58. My wife (also a basketball-freak, thank God) and I were in Turkey two years ago for the World Championship, and in Lithuania last year for the European Championship. (And recently back in Turkey for the women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament -- France went through comfortably.) I'll be posting about Olympic basketball -- mainly the French team with its two Spurs starters (Boris must sign, or I will personally strangle him). Perhaps some other bits and pieces, if PtR is totally desperate for text...

The good news is, "Tony is cleared for play." The eye-specialists mandated by the Spurs have confirmed TP's French surgeon's opinion, that the intervention went well, and that Tony can safely rejoin the National Team.

The bad news is, "Nico still doesn't have insurance." Portland won't pay for a player who hasn't signed yet, and since the Blazers have been bitchy all season, Nico isn't going to let himself be railroaded. The Batum / Blazers game of bluff and counter-bluff continues...

So... Without Tony and Nico, the French team that will play against Great Britain Saturday will be a bit "light".

I was pretty sure Tony would soon be available, because Coach Vincent Collet didn't bother to call up another point guard. He'll go with his combo guards (Nando de Colo, Yannick Bokolo, and Fabien Causeur) until TP is back to full speed.

Now that Joakim Noah is officially out, the roster is firm. It's very similar to last year's European Silver Medalists. TP's backups from last year are gone, replaced by this season's "French Player of the Year", sharpshooter Fabien Causeur, and by long-time Bleus stalwart Yannick Bokolo, absent last year for the birth of a child.

Nando will start at the point. He's an atypical player, a true point guard who can and does score a lot. Last year I would have been skeptical about his NBA possibilities, but then he had an excellent season in the tough Spanish league. It will be interesting to see how he does in London, because of the Spurs' interest in him.

With Nico absent, the starter at shooting guard will probably be Mikaël Gelabale, an athletic three-point shooter who was injured in last year's Euro and has only recently recovered all his abilities (I hope!). If Mike isn't in full form, I think Fabien Causeur will get the minutes.

Defensive specialist Florent Pietrus, brother of the Celtics' Mikaël / Mike, will start at small forward.

Boris Diaw, team captain and power forward, will be one of the essential elements of the team. With Les Bleus, he plays very much in the same "pass first" style as with the Spurs. And, yes, like Spurs fans, French fans sometimes want to scream when Boris forgoes an easy shot in favor of a difficult pass.

Center will be a crowded. Miami Heat backup center Ronny Turiaf, injured just before last year's Euro, doesn't intend to ride the bench this time. But... Washington Wizards' Kevin Seraphin finished the NBA season with a series of double-doubles. And ambidextrous scorer (a gentle way of saying "wretched defender") Ali Traoré will want to prove that the NBA isn’t everything.

Back-court defensive commando duties will go to physical phenomenon Charles Kahudi.

It's a well-balanced, flexible team, capable of scoring a ton... as long as they don't have to attack a zone...

I don't know the British team, other than lead scorer Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, and center Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who played in the French league a few years ago -- not elegant, but physically very strong.

I'll post a game report Saturday night.

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