Can France find next gen talent?


AS France’s men’s basketball team bowed to the United States in the gold medal match of the Tokyo Olympics, Rudy Gobert could not hold back his emotions.

I like Gobert and think he is an incredible basketball player. Showing his emotions is not going to take anything away from my respect for this Frenchman.

More than being an emotional player, I wonder if it was tears because this could possibly be the best chance for France and other countries to unseat the USA.

And to think, this wasn’t even a very good roster. Dozens of stars skipped the Olympics. Imagine if they didn’t.

As such, the pre-Olympic losses to Nigeria and Australia and the opening game loss to France were massive wake-up calls. In fact, during the gold medal game versus France, at one point, you could see Draymond Green get mad at Kevin Durant for not guarding his man who hit a triple. The next time down the floor, Durant blocked that player.

As for the French…. their Golden Generation of players has all but hung up their sneakers. Boris Diaw, Tony Parker, Florent Pietrus, Mickael Gelabale and Joffrey Lauvergne are done. After this Olympics, it is possible that Thomas Huertel, Nando de Colo and Nicolas Batum are as well. It is possible though that we might see one or two of them back as the next Summer Games are in France. The French will want to go all out.

France isn’t the only one shaken up by the retirements of their stars. Other countries have seen their Golden Generations done as well.

Spain will need to overhaul their ageing roster as Pau and Marc Gasol are done. So is Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez. Gone are Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Nikola Mirotic and Felipe Reyes.

This leaves Ricky Rubio who is getting in on the years, Willy Hernangomez, Alex Albrines and Sergio Llull to hold the fort as they look for reinforcements. Will Serge Ibaka be back?

Argentina is in the same boat. Luis Scola is done. He joins Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni and Leonardo Gutierrez in retirement. That was a wondrous team and most of them went to the National Basketball Association.

They still do have Gabriel Beck, Facundo Campazzo, Luca Vildoza, Nicolas Brussino and Marcos Delia. They did win the recent Pan American Games so there is talent even with Scola departing. But they don’t strike me—yet, I must say—the way their Golden Generation balled.

Who do I like as an up-and-coming national team—that has to be Australia.

Some players from their Tokyo roster will be done—Chris Goulding, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles. It is possible Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova might give it one more go in Paris but look to Ben Simmons, Josh Green, Matisse Thybulle, Dante Exum, Duop Reath, and some of the youngsters like Dyson Daniels, Blake Jones, and Akoldah Gak to move up and give a good account of themselves. And they still have Thon Maker (although he isn’t getting much playing time in the NBA) and Will Magnay.

The Australian National Basketball League has become a good source of talent for Australians wanting to go to the NBA or even the US collegiate circuit. NBL alums in the NBA include Andrew Bogut, Chris Anstey, Mills, Goulding, Magnay and Dellavedova to name but a few.

Slovenia? Canada? Serbia?

For sure they will compete.

I actually wonder why Canada­—which I think is the closest that can approximate the American’s power, depth and talent—­doesn’t do well. And that is perplexing.

Other countries rely on bringing up their youth teams together who they hope to get exposure in the US, Europe, or in Asia.

The Americans…well, they have their youth teams, but seldom do batches of players come up as one. If you look at their Olympic and Fiba rosters, very few players have a second or third go-around with the national team. It is a testament to the Americans’ collective talent that they generally do very well.

In the 2017 Fiba AmeriCup, the US competed for the first time in years and with a roster stocked with G League talent, they beat Argentina’s national team with Scola, Campazzo, Beck, and all, 81-76.

Am not suggesting that beating the Americans is impossible. It has been done although they are more like bumps in the roads rather than a changing of the guard.

The rest of the world has gotten better in basketball, but when the Americans want to play, no one comes close.

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