05 - 10
July 2016
5 Nicolas BATUM (France)
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Without Batum and Fournier, France's depth to be tested further at Manila OQT

PARIS (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - France are going to be without two more of their important players at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila with both Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier unable to participate because of their free agency status in the NBA.

Each could end up playing at the Rio de Janeiro Games if Les Bleus were to qualify, but getting to Brazil is going to be much harder for the French without the duo, and Rudy Gobert, who recently announced his decision to rest and recuperate from knocks that sidelined him for part of the NBA season instead of making himself available for the OQT.

Bouna Ndiaye, the agent of the Batum, Fournier and Ian Mahinmi, another player that could have featured at the OQT, says the timing is not right for the trio. The earliest each would be able to sign new contracts would be 10 July, the day of the last game at the OQT.

It's 100 percent sure that, whatever happens, even if they have the desire to play for the national team, they will be in the United States between June 1 and the signature date [of their new NBA contracts]. - Ndiaye

France would nevertheless appear to have as good a chance as any team to win the OQT. They will play the Philippines and New Zealand in Group B and must be among the top two to reach the Semi-Final.

Once there, France would take on Turkey, Senegal or Canada. The Semi-Final winners will meet with a spot at the Rio Olympics at stake.

The good news for France national team coach Vincent Collet is that he has San Antonio Spurs veterans Tony Parker and Boris Diaw set to play. Parker became the EuroBasket's all-time leading scorer last summer.

Nando de Colo, a member of the All-Star Five at last year's EuroBasket, Mickael Gelabale, Florent Pietrus and the French top flight's Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Kahudi, will continue to have important roles. Much will be expected of Joffrey Lauvergne, who now has three years of the senior team under his belt.

The French are banking on the return of New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca to the squad. Ajinca last featured for Les Bleus at EuroBasket 2013, when the team captured the title.