Parker, Batum say they will play for France in 2016

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There is still a bitter taste in the mouths of the French players after their overtime loss to Spain in the EuroBasket semifinals. Especially since the French were hosting the final rounds of the event in Lille. France was up by 11 and seemingly in control of the game at one point, but could not stop Pau Gasol who scored 40 — French players said publicly they thought the referees handled Gasol with kid gloves — and Spain came back and won in overtime.

After the French beat Serbia 81-68 Sunday to take the EuroBasket bronze medal, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum took the mike in the arena to thank the French fans — and they both said they would play next summer to help France qualify for the Rio Olympics. Via Sportando:

“We are sorry that we did not win the gold medal. You have been amazing” the two NBA stars said. “We will be stronger in Rio 2016. We will not leave French National Team.”

Because they fell to Spain (who earned an automatic ticket to Rio with the win), France has to go through the pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments. In that 18 teams — including France, Greece, Canada, Mexico, Italy Angola — will be randomly drawn into three different groups of six. Those six will play in a mini-tournament with the winner getting a pass to the Rio Olympics.

What that means is a lot of it comes down to the draw. Put France, Italy and Canada in one group and you may have a group of death with the three best teams not already qualified beating each other up. It would be a very FIBA thing to do. Or, maybe the ball bounces France’s way and it’s a much easier draw. Who knows? But wherever France lands, so long as Parker, Batum, and Rudy Gobert all play (and maybe Boris Diaw, too) the French will be the favorite to win their group.

As a side note, Parker and Batum were not terribly impressive against Serbia. Batum was 3-of-9 from the floor, Parker had 13 points but on 3-of-12 shooting.