National Bas-ketball Asso-ciation (NBA) star Tony Parker said that the French national team will not take Gilas Pilipinas lightly when the two teams clash in the opener of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Philippines-France match is set at 9 p.m. after the 6:30 p.m. opening game between Turkey and Canada.
Parker also said that he is familiar with the Philippine brand of basketball. “We watch film. Obviously, we try to learn everything, the way the Filipinos play and the way they move, stuff like that. We try to make sure we know everybody because we have to respect everybody.”
France is No.5 in FIBA world rankings while the Philippines is No.28.
Despite the one-sided forecast predicting victory for the French, the San Antonio Spurs starting point guard said that beating the Filipinos in front of a hometown crowd is easier said than done.
“I respect everybody,” Parker, who won NBA titles with the Spurs in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014, told reporters during a news conference on Monday at Sofitel Hotel in Manila. “It is going to be a tough game playing at home. They’re going to play with a lot of confidence.”
“We have to match their energy. They’re always dangerous. In the first day of competitions, you always try to approach it the right way, be aggressive the right way and try to control the tempo of the game,” added Parker, which was the 2013 EuroBasket Most Valuable Player.
Parker said that he would be playing with less pressure this time having already steered France to win the 2013 EuroBasket. “I just have to enjoy myself playing with my teammates and just try to enjoy every moment.”
“It’s just an unbelievable to play for the national team for the long time. Just to come here, enjoy every game and try to qualify for the Olympics will be a dream ending for my international career. That’s my goal when we won the title in 2013 and bring home more gold medals to the country,” he said.
“I achieved my goal so my end was pretty close, 2016 will be a perfect ending to finish my career.”
France’s coach Vincent Collet also revealed that top scorer Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets will miss the game against Gilas but he might be available in later matches.
“Batum will not play tomorrow [Tuesday],” said Collet. “It is going to be a great atmosphere tomorrow. We have to control the pace of the game too early and we can’t allow them [Filipinos to win]. It is a matter of controlling the strength and weaknesses.”
Besides Parker and Collet, also present during the news conference were Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs, Nando de Colo, Florent Pietrus and Mickel Gelabale.
Meanwhile, Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said that his wards were near complete mental and physical readiness against France.
“We are getting closer now. It is now all about the mental game,” said Baldwin.
We are all ready and we’re focusing more on our game plans,” said national player Jayson Castro.
The 6’11 naturalized Filipino player Andray Blatche, for his part, said that he would rather focus on winning than on their rivals, “I have no any message about France. My focus is to win,” he said.
Cone says qualifying for Rio doable
Two-time grand slam coach Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra believes that Gilas could make it to Rio.
“Gilas certainly has enough offensive power to give France fits,” Cone told The Manila Times on Monday. “So does Gilas have a chance? Yes, but without a doubt, the road to the Olympics is going to be incredibly tough—but doable.”
Cone added that the Filipinos were able to prove they can match Turkey’s level of play though they’ve lost twice to the Turks (68-103 and 76-84).
“I think the way Gilas Pilipinas played at home against Turkey is a good indication of how they can play France,” said Cone. “If they can stay close early in the game and then use the crowd to lift them late in the game, then they can certainly pull off an upset.
“The key for me is if they can defend and control the boards. As for advancing to the Olympics, I think Turkey may be the strongest team of the group and Gilas has shown they can play with them,” he said.