By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
“I play every competition with the same motivation and wanting to give my best for the national team,” Diaw said to FIBA.basketball. “The tournament itself is very important. I don’t think about the next ones or if it helps qualify or not for a World Cup or the Olympics.
“I play with the same mentality every summer, always wanting to win. The goal is the same this year as the previous ones: to win a medal.”
It’s that type of mentality that makes Diaw an indispensable member of France’s squad this summer, a year after the international retirements of Tony Parker, Mickael Gelabale and Florent Pietrus. “I always had to be one of the leaders of the team, so it’s not that different from the past summers,” Diaw said. “This summer, there are less veterans and guys that were having the same role as me but we still have some guys who can fill that role, such as Nando De Colo, who has been playing with us for almost 10 years. Some guys know exactly how it works, and we are going to help the new guys get accustomed and integrated to the national team.”
Adding to the challenge will also be the absences of Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert. “Playing at international level is never easy,” said Diaw, who was waived by the Utah Jazz last month and is currently without an NBA team. “I’ve never come to play with Les Bleus thinking, ‘yeah, it’s going to be easy to compete and win this summer’. There are always a lot of teams that can win the title. We will need to play at our best and play hard to have a great tournament. The goal is still the same, we want to keep winning medals and be in a great winning dynamic. In the last couple of years, we have shown that we can compete at the highest level. We want to remain among Europe’s finest.”
It will help France that NBA players Evan Fournier and Kevin Seraphin are back. Fournier couldn’t play at last year’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila because of contract talks with Orlando and he wasn’t added to the roster for the Rio de Janeiro Games. Seraphin last played at the 2012 Olympics in London. “We are counting on them, that’s for sure,” Diaw said. “They are going to have important roles on this team. They are very motivated and they can bring a lot to the group, as we have seen during the first practices. They have talent, and they want to help the team by playing at their highest level.”
France will play in a loaded Group A in Helsinki against Poland, Greece, Slovenia, Iceland and Finland.