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Poirier: ''We'll go to Tokyo with a lot of ambition''
BOSTON (USA) - At first glance, the imposing physical presence of Vincent Poirier suggests he is not a man you would want to meet in a dark alley – be it in his native Paris or Boston, where he plays for the NBA's Celtics.
Standing 2.13m (7ft) tall, the muscular, broad-shouldered Poirier has dark hair, a bushy beard, a piercing stare and plenty of tattoos. And judging from some of the comments he's made in the Boston media, he's a guy that does the dirty work.
Are there any movie directors out there in need of a bodyguard, or an enforcer?
"You have to have a couple of guys who do all the dirty work," he said in a recent interview with the Boston Globe. "If not, you cannot win. You have to be great at what you can do, and what I can do is all the dirty work."
Don't worry, the tough-talking, matter-of-fact Poirier wasn't speaking about being mean on the streets, but rather playing on the hardwood with the Celtics. The hard man role is the same one he had this past summer with France, whom he scrapped away at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
The 26-year-old strongman saved his best performance for last, coming off the bench in the second half of the Third Place Game to "do the dirty work" as France fought back from a 15-point deficit against Australia to win, 67-59.
"IT'S TOUGH TO BOUNCE BACK AFTER LOSING ONE STEP AWAY FROM THE FINAL GAME, BUT WE SHOWED THAT WE ARE WARRIORS NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS."
Poirier's appearance wasn't spectacular, yet it was world class all the same and exactly what France needed. He delivered, with his back to the basket and while being guarded by Australia center Andrew Bogut, a perfect bounce pass for Nicolas Batum to corral before dunking.
Poirier chased down Australia's Mitch Creek from behind and blocked his layup, although picking up a foul. Creek made just one of the two free-throws. Not long after, Poirier crashed the offensive glass and got a hand in the face from Aron Baynes. The referee blew his whistle, leaving France with possession.
At both ends of the floor, he did things to help France, whether it was setting screens, claiming offensive rebounds, dunking or swatting a Pat Mills lay-up attempt off the rim.
By the end of the third quarter, France had closed the gap to 46-42. When he left the game a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the score was 50-50. France then pulled away for the win.
Poirier had been instrumental.
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"I'm very proud of having won the medal, but mostly for being part of a great group of guys that was able to regroup and react after the Semi-Final loss to Argentina," Poirier said to FIBA.basketball.
"When you miss the opportunity of making it to the final of a World Cup, you can go down and kind of lose some motivation. We did not, and we did show that we're competitors and that our fighting spirit, our winning spirit, our competitiveness is unbreakable.
"It's tough to bounce back after losing one step away from the Final game, but we showed that we are warriors no matter what happens."
It was a memorable tournament for France, one with its share of close games. They scraped a 78-74 victory over Germany in their opener and edged Lithuania, 78-75, in the Second Round. France then in the Quarter-Finals stunned and dethroned the two-time defending champions United States, 89-79. That American team had Poirier's Celtics teammates Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
"Oh man, that was such an amazing moment to be part of," Poirier said. "Team USA is always a tough opponent and we had such a great game against them.
"We executed the game plan and had a very solid and intense defense, which was one of the keys of the game. When you win against a team like the USA, it gives you a boost of confidence and you realize that you can do amazing things.
"We knew it was just a game, but it was historical for French basketball to win against USA. We said to each other after the game that it was just one game, and we did lose after against Argentina, but it was an historical moment for France's basketball, that's for sure."
Coach Vincent Collet didn't use Poirier in that USA game but told him to stay ready because the time would come when France would need him, and it did against Australia in the Third-Place Game.
As one of the top two European sides at the World Cup, along with champions Spain, France claimed direct qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. They therefore avoided the rigorous FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament path they took in 2016 to get to Rio de Janeiro.
Poirier is thinking about Tokyo, which would be his first Olympics.
Poirier took his game to new heights at the World Cup
"The goal would be to have a great tournament and stay in the same dynamic that we've had in the last couple of months," he said. "Competing in a tournament like the Olympics is a privilege, and a goal for every athlete no matter which discipline they compete in.
"I have so many good memories of watching the Olympics on TV, from the Dream Team to the silver medal reached by France in 2000 in Sydney. If I get the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, I would be so happy."
France haven't been on the Olympic podium since Sydney 2000. They lost in the Quarter-Finals in London and Rio, both times to Spain.
"We'll go to Tokyo with a lot of ambition and eager to have a great run there," Poirier said. "Winning something, a medal for example, would be a dream come true. And I am working hard every day to reach the most dreams I can. "