The French National Team is doing their best to qualify for the 2009 Eurobasket, a key tournament in earning a berth to the 2012 Olympics in London.
Three weeks ago, Joakim Noah’s participation for the French National Team was a cause of concern for the Chicago Bulls.
During Noah’s exit interview with the Bulls, the team set up a summer, strength-training regimen for the 6-11 power forward/center, that allowed Noah to practice with the French National Team for two weeks at the end of July.
Noah headed to Strasbourg, and played well for Team France, helping them defeat Austria and the Czech Republic in the preparation games. Noah averaged 13 points, 7.5 rebounds, and provided much needed toughness for the French interior.
The problem began when France wanted to keep Noah on their squad for the Additional Qualifying Round. France confirmed that they were attempting to persuade the Bulls to let the 24-year-old play in the AQR games against Italy and Finland.
However, Bulls made it clear that Noah should not play past the preparation round. Noah supported the Bulls in this decision.
Noah, the son of French-born tennis star Yannick Noah, agreed with the Bulls and returned stateside to begin his weight-training.
After the preparation game against Austria, Tony Parker injured his foot which caused moderate drama between France and the San Antonio Spurs. The injury forced the star guard to fly back to San Antonio to have the Spur’s medical staff examine the injury themselves.
The move clearly incensed Parker, who was forced to spend several days in Texas rehabbing his injury, when he obviously would have preferred helping his country qualify for the all-important Eurobasket.
“Honestly, I don’t understand this decision, because of all the tests done with the French doctors and the Spurs,” Parker said. “I regret what is going on.”
Fortunately, Team France was fine without Parker in the one game he missed, defeating Italy 80-77 in the initial AQR game. Parker rejoined the team for their next game.
Recently, Batum’s ailing shoulder gave cause for concern to the Portland Trailblazers, who summoned the 20-year old back to the United States so the Blazers’ doctors could look at the shoulder first hand.
Batum, who had just helped France to victory in their second game against Italy, was distressed by the news, “It was perhaps my last match, so I wanted to win at any cost before leaving the team.” Batum said, “Tony Parker got back quickly, so I’m hoping that the the same thing happens for me. I’m just taking off to be examined over there, and after that, we’ll see what happens.”
Without Batum, who is averaging 17.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the AQR, France lost to Finland 77-73.
Tony Parker managed only 4 points and 3 assists in the game, but the loss was meaningless to France, as they had already clinched the top spot in their group. France will play either Belgium or Bosnia and Herzegovina to determine the final Eurobasket berth.
“I love playing for France. If we are able to quality for the EuroBasket, we will be in a good position to do well at the tournament.” Parker told FIBA.com
In the last month, France has had no less than eight NBA players on their national team roster – Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, Nando De Colo, Ian Mahinmi, and Johan Petro.