WBC Preview: France
With the more NBA players than any other team in the 2003 European Championship, France was considered a favorite to take home the gold. But they stumbled along the way, and missed out on an Olympic bid when they lost to Italy in the Bronze Medal game. The showing was embarrasing -- as France shot 3-of-24 from 3-point range and registered only two assists as a team.
After sitting out the Athens Games, France found itself in a similar predicament two years later at the 2005 European Championship. This time, they made sure they won the third place game, drilling Spain by 30 and securing a trip to Japan.
France is tied with Slovenia for more NBA players on its team (five) than any other country in the World Championship other than the U.S.
Tony Parker was the squad's obvious star but broke his finger in an exhibition game against Brazil Aug. 15 when it got caught in Leandro Barbosa's uniform. The injury was a serious blow to France's medal hopes.
Boris Diaw of the Suns is coming off a career season as well, and was awarded Most Improved Player of the Year for his efforts. He's the Inspector Gadget of the French National Team – able to play point guard, forward and even center. Diaw averaged 13.3 points on .526 shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in Phoenix last season.
The third cog in France's perimeter attack is Golden State swingman Mickael Pietrus, who recorded 9.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in his third NBA campaign. Pietrus is an outstanding defender and a first-rate finisher.
Gelabale signed with the Sonics this past summer after spending the year with Real Madrid (Spain), and is an energy player with an ability to rebound, defend and elevate. He should see significant minutes for France.
Turiaf recently secured a spot on the national team roster, according to coach Claude Bergeaud, but Petro's place is in question as he battles with veteran forward Cyril Julian for the final spot on the team. Both players have been stating their case during exhibition play, which included a string of three-consecutive losses by France.
Turiaf averaged 2.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited play as a Lakers rookie this season following open-heart surgery in July 2005 for an enlarged aortic root. He's a excellent low post scorer, solid rebounder and doesn't mind throwing his body around.
Petro posted 5.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and .75 blocks in 18.9 minutes per game. Though he started 41 of 68 games for Seattle, playing time will be harder to come by if he makes it to Japan. Petro's youth means he's best utilized for spot duty.
The Bottom Line
Without Parker in the lineup, France is fighting an uphill battle. Many people picked them to medal in Japan before the injury but they are now a different team with unable to play.