By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicolas Batum has won four medals with the French national team and is looking for another one at the 2019 FIBA World Cup but warns that there are a lot of teams with that potential:
“Yes, the battle for the top three spots is going to be crazy. A lot of teams can be in the medal spots and it’s going to be intense, very hard for every team to be in those spots. But every team, including ours, is going to fight for it, to play at its best level to try to come back home with a medal”, Batum told fiba.basketball.
A medal would be nice but the primary goal is qualifying for the Olympics: “The first step is to qualify for the Olympics and after this, focusing on how far we can go into the competition. When we get there, game after game, we’ll have a better view of what’s possible. We are ambitious, but it’s important to take it one step at a time. This is a very long and intense competition, many teams can reach the medal spots.”
Batum believes top-notch defense is the way to go if they want to fulfill their goals: “We have to get back to our main strength, one that we haven’t done well in the last two competitions, which is our defense. It was our biggest strength in our best years. And when we won medals and a title, it was mainly because of our solid defense. Coach (Vincent) Collet speaks a lot about this, and he is right.”
Defense is their focus and having Rudy Gobert around has been enormous: “We’ve been working a lot on this aspect of the game since the beginning of the training camp, and everyone is really into it. Something good, too – a huge plus – is that now we have Rudy Gobert back with us. He was here in 2014, and having him in the paint is great. In 2014, we were able to be very solid defensively and that is the main reason why we went that far into the tournament.”
Batum also named a few teams that caught his eye in front of the Wolrd Cup: “For example, I didn’t know that much about Jordan, and I have started watching some games and study their game. They play well, they play fast, they like to shoot. We don’t know them that much, but they have the potential to be a team that can make life harder. They play with a lot of passion. Even the Dominican Republic, they couldn’t have (Al) Horford and (Karl Anthony) Towns, but they also were able to qualify without them during the Americas Qualifiers. Germany, we lost to in 2017 but we want to beat them in the First Round”, he said.