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Tony Parker, France

SIAULIAI (EuroBasket 2011) – France star Tony Parker is clearly the early front-runner for the MVP award at EuroBasket 2011. But even French boss Vincent Collet is wondering if he’s leaning too heavily on Parker as Les Bleus believe they can reach the 2012 Olympics and even win the 2011 title in Lithuania.

“The Olympics are the dream of every athlete. This year I think is one of the best EuroBaskets ever. Everybody is here and the competition is very, very tough,” said Parker, who leads the EuroBasket in scoring with 28 points and seven assists through three games.   

“I think it will mean a lot to the teams that qualify for the Olympics because this year especially is really tough to qualify because three are a lot of great teams.”

France have not been at the Olympics since claiming silver in 2000. And Collet’s men would desperately love to be the team to once again walk into the Opening Ceremony.

“That’s why we’re here. We’re going to give everything we have to get back to the Olympics. France haven’t been at the Olympics in a long time. More than 10 years. So it would be huge for us,” said Nicolas Batum, who was 11 years old when France last graced the Olympic stage.

Collet reflected back on France’s test matches in August at the Olympic Basketball Arena, where the 2012 Olympic basketball games will be contested.

“The first time we came to London and saw the gym, everybody on the team was saying the same thing: We want to be back next year. It would be so great,” said the coach.

Parker is the undisputed leader for France and probably France’s key to reaching the Olympic Games or at least the pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament. But Collet is admittedly somewhat concerned that he is relying too much on the 29-year-old.

“We knew we had to step up our aggressiveness. But offensively we still depend too much on Tony,” Collet said after France’s win over Germany.
Parker is averaging his 28 points and seven assists in 34.7 minutes, something that could wear down the NBA veteran over the course of the longest EuroBasket in history.

Regardless, the French are not just thinking about the Olympics. They are thinking even bigger – winning their first EuroBasket crown.

“A title would be huge. This European Championship is the best of all time. So if we win this one, maybe we would be the best team to ever win a European Championship,” Batum said.


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