After defeating Greece in the EuroBasket quarterfinals, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker and Team France are one victory away from achieving an Olympic berth to the 2012 London Games.
For Parker it is one of his remaining ambitions, the French starting point guard is focused on helping France defeat Russia on Friday to reach the championship game of 2011 EuroBasket and secure his first trip to the Olympics.
“We’ve been so close over the years, losing in the semifinal twice [in 2003 and 2005],” Parker said. “I think everyone feels that it’s going to be our year. I just want to make sure everyone stays focused because nothing is guaranteed. That’s the beauty of sport.” (via Mark Woods, ESPN)
The French team, historically, has been a fragile creature, filled with high-level talent but with divisions forcing open the cracks. Which is one reason why Parker discreetly acted as a de facto general manager in ensuring every player — and, in particular, the French NBA contingent — bought into the program in advance of this summer.
With only one loss in Lithuania (the giveaway defeat to Spain which Parker and Noah sat out to rest), the results have hinted at a unity of purpose, one that might see the team attain its goal of bringing the European title home for the very first time in the country’s history.
“The chemistry is great,” Parker said. “The ambiance is unbelievable. There’s a great atmosphere on the bus and there’s a great attitude. We’re all focused on the same goal.”
More than in the past, he confirms. It is a changed outlook. “I think because every year there is more motivation,” he said. “You’re more thirsty. You’re so close but you’re not quite there. Each year our motivation grew. We’ve felt that this year, we can’t go out in the quarterfinals or the semifinals and not make it.”
Parker has had to pace himself to avoid the same kind of burnout that saw Dirk Nowitzki run out of energy. It helps that, unlike the German, he was able to take an extended postseason break.
If Parker can help France gain an outright Olympic berth, he can set his sight on another goal and that is helping France to win the 2011 EuroBasket title.