Olympics Basketball 2012: Breaking Down Every Matchup vs. Team France
Poor Tony Parker. He got hit with shards of glass in his eye, a situation that would engender more sympathy had it not happened in such a ridiculous manner.
As you probably know, the man was caught in a crossfire of a bottle-throwing fight between Drake and Chris Brown. He now has to bounce back from this injury and carry Team France—while wearing Kareem-style goggles, no less.
The challenge is especially tough this time because Joakim Noah is staying home. The Bulls center suffered a high ankle sprain in the playoffs and cannot help France this time around.
Were Noah playing, France might be ranked second in this tournament. Unlike Spain, they have a player on the wing (Nicolas Batum). Had Noah played, France would have boasted a big man who could switch onto athletic perimeter players in pick-and-roll situations.
Now, they'll have to soldier on against an American team that has them outclassed at every position. France could still pull it off, but they're going to have to catch Team USA like this.
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I'll say this for France: They won't lack for enthusiasm. Ronny Turiaf is the NBA's best bench celebrator. The problem lies in how I just used the term "bench."
Turiaf could barely get off that pine during the NBA playoffs. While he sipped championship champagne, the drink had little to do with his efforts. Much of that bubbly was purchased by the performances of Heat teammate LeBron James, the same guy who will be running at Turiaf again and again when the two teams face off.
Ronny can still block a shot; he's averaging 2.7 per 36 minutes over the course of his career. The problem is everything else. Turiaf can't create his own shot or rebound effectively. While he provides decent weakside shot-swatting, he gets dominated in individual matchups against larger players.
Fortunately for Ronny, Team USA isn't big. Unfortunately for Turiaf, he might wind up guarding LeBron James if Coach K goes small. Oof.
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If you know about Washington Wizards power forward Kevin Seraphin, you're an NBA League Pass psycho and we should probably hang out. I'm actually a big Seraphin fan, insofar as you can be a fan of Wizards' role players.
France's 22 year-old big put up an above-average 15.8 PER last year and shows plenty of physical promise. He's long, muscled and able to get off the floor quickly.
Seraphin is inexperienced and does not possess much of an offensive game as of yet. At least he can hang with some of Team USA's athletes without looking out of sorts. The worry is that Seraphin may have picked up bad defensive habits on account of playing for the Wizards.
If he's making poor defensive choices, it could be a long game for France (it could be a long game anyway). Seraphin will be tested by Team USA's small-ball lineups. He's sure to draw coverages against LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.
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While Boris Diaw might not technically be a small forward, I'm putting him here because France needs to play Seraphin and Diaw simultaneously if they have any hope of beating the USA.
I believe that they will, simply because Boris has no real position. Restricting Diaw or Seraphin based on role makes no sense, considering that France needs to play their best guys above all else—and Boris can play almost any role.
Yes, he has weight issues. I've heard the jokes and seen evidence of the fluctuations. But even when out of shape, Diaw is a passable defender above and below the arc.
When in shape, he's much better than you think. It's crucial for France to have a versatile player when going against such a versatile American team. Not only can Diaw guard frontcourt positions, but he can pass wonderfully.
While he should suffer against the likes of LeBron James, I expect him to work symbiotically with Tony Parker. TP is a score-first guard, and he's helped by having the pass-first Diaw by his side.
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Before he was the subject of a contentious bidding war between the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves, Nicolas Batum was a promising NBA wing. He still is, though the back and forth between these clubs overshadowed that truth.
Batum is long and can shoot with some deep range. He is not especially creative with the ball and his defensive prowess is a bit overrated. Allow me to explain.
While Batum has plenty of defensive talent, he has yet to hone that into an effective containment strategy. Simply put, the dude gets burned a lot. As he gets older, he should fall for fewer pump fakes. Right now, he's not quite there.
Outside of Team USA, Batum is one of the best tournament's best wing players, though. The Americans are rarely facing a wing with any notable talent, so that alone gives France a huge boost.
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Tony Parker is the heart, soul and brain of Team France. Not only is he their best player, but he works in the offseason as their offensive coordinator, running a Spurs-style motion system. Such a system is what can break a more talented team, which is why Team USA should be careful against this particular foe.
Parker's game is not strikingly creative or impressive beyond his ability to get in the lane. What he can do is adhere to an offensive scheme with remarkable poise. What Parker can't do is seem to make a mistake. TP will make the right play more often than not.
Just as Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo can be said to thrive in chaos, Tony Parker is the epitome of someone who thrives in order.
Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook will be charged with disrupting Tony's order. Parker is a crafty pick and roll defender, so this is no easy task for the trio. He will have to conjure something special to give his team a chance, but expect the savvy vet to fight to the last minute.