During the start of the 2012 London Olympics Men’s basketball pool play, France was honestly one team I must admit I overlooked. I honestly didn’t expect them to even make the quarterfinals as I thought that China would find a way to make it despite no longer having center Yao Ming on their roster.
But France has prevailed and are now on the bigger stage in the Olympics. It’s somewhat like the NBA Playoffs but every single game must be taken as like a Game 7, there’s no other game to bounce back from a loss. One loss and you’re out. Simple as that. This is where stars will shine and unknown players emerge from the bench.
France is a team led primarily by San Antonio Spurs point guard, Tony Parker, who in the Olympic games thus far hasn’t really been a point guard. He has been their primary scorer and not the Tony Parker we normally see on a regular basis in San Antonio. However, it has been working and France is still winning. In the win against Argentina during pool play, Parker was basically taking every shot and forcing tough shots. Luckily, France won that game.
Going up against Spanish guards such as Juan Carlos Navarro and Toronto Raptors floor general, Jose Calderon, Parker has some challenges he has to face. Outside of Parker however, France still has some young and solid talents that could help France advance.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum will come in handy as a wing player as Spain will most likely put Batum’s future NBA teammate, Victor Claver, on him. In 2010 Claver, has been awarded as the Eurocups Rising Star and this 23 year old can also dunk very well much like Batum. That matchup will certainly be entertaining for us and mostly Blazers fans.
San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Los Angeles Clippers center Ronny Turiaf will definitely have their hands full tomorrow as they will be taking on the Gasol brothers. Diaw and Turiaf both stand at 6 foot 8 and 6 foot 10 respectively, but the two Gasols are both 7 footers who obviously have proven to have better inside skills than almost every other big man in the NBA. Throughout his NBA career, Marc Gasol has been growing steadily and is now, in my opinion, the third best center in the NBA behind Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. Marc is quite possibly also the best passing big man in the game as we have witnessed from watching him play on the Memphis Grizzlies. Pau on the other hand is still one of the best power forwards, and going up against Diaw, it will definitely be easy.
Rebounding will obviously be a problem for France because not only does Spain have the Gasols but they also have Serge Ibaka, who just joined the team this year. Ibaka, who plays with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that eliminated Parker and Diaw’s Spurs in the recent NBA Playoffs, will be one of the most active players on both ends. Defense is where Ibaka will mostly come in as he will be capable to stopping Parker from dominating the paint as he normally can do.
Defensively for France, they’ll just have to double team the Gasols and rotate quickly before either of them finds an open jumpshooter like Rudy Fernandez who can ignite a spark on the team with his energy. Off the bench for France, Washington Wizards center Kevin Seraphin has shown positive signs during the Olympics thus far and has worked very well with Tony Parker. Getting offensive rebounds and putting in put back shots is one thing the 22 year old can do. With Batum most likely to play the shooting guard spot with former NBA player Mickael Gelabale, France will have some length advantage there.
Spain has already been criticized as of late for not being the team most of us expected them to be. Most of us expected them to make the gold medal game where they would face Team USA in a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Olympics epic gold medal game. Spain has a chip on their shoulder and the only way to get rid of it, is to face Team USA and win. But first they have to eliminate France. It won’t be that easy, but I still see Spain pulling off a convincing victory.
My prediction: Spain wins
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