|28 March 2013|
|Flying to the USA to meet his star players: France head coach Vincent Collet|
On Wednesday night, coach Vincent Collet guided Strasbourg to an 100-68 demolition of Boulazac that keeps them at the top of the French Pro A standings, tied with BCM Gravelines Dunkerque and Elan Chalon.
On Thursday morning, the Strasbourg coach was boarding a transatlantic flight to Texas in the United States, accompanied by Patrick Beesley, who is the French Federation's (FFBB) director for the national team.
The 49-year-old tactician has not decided suddenly, with just six games remaining until the end of the Pro A Regular Season, to take a break from the stressful championship race.
Collet is however also the coach of the French national team, one of the main contenders for a medal at EuroBasket 2013.
As this period in time also coincides with the final turn of the NBA Regular Season, it presents Collet and Beesley with an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the intentions of some of the key candidates to be on the squad that will travel to Slovenia, before they go their separate ways with the start of the play-offs.
"To make this trip possible, both the national league and the clubs have agreed to modify their game schedule and we are very grateful for their collaboration," commented Beesley.
"It forms part of several travels by FFBB president Jean-Pierre Siutat and myself in recent months.
"It's important to keep a close link with the players before undertaking the long preparations in the summer that will bring France in form to play at the Eurobasket."
The first stop on the trip for the France coach and team director could be none other than San Antonio, which is home to three linchpins of Les Bleus.
The Spurs of French national team captain Boris Diaw, superstar Tony Parker and NBA rookie Nando De Colo play host to the Los Angeles Clippers of the veteran in the league Ronny Turiaf on Friday.
|Looking ahead to a potentially deep play-off run with the Spurs: Boris Diaw |
With Parker back from injury last week after a 20-day absence and Turiaf nearing game form, all four French stars are expected to suit up for their respective teams on Friday and the duo of Collet and Beesley will meet up with them after the game.
San Antonio will finish either first or second in the Western Conference, while the Clippers will finish between third and fifth, so all four French players will be involved in the play-offs, with both teams having good chances of going far, perhaps even to the Conference Finals - or beyond.
Collet and Beesley stay in Texas on Saturday and travel to Dallas to see Rodrigue Beaubois.
In the case of the young point guard the state of his health and not the length of the season is the prime concern.
Even if the Mavericks succeed in their last-ditch attempt to clinch a play-off spot, Beaubois will most likely not play again until the summer as he underwent surgery last week to repair the fractured second metacarpal in his left hand.
Following a schedule that would be every travel agent's nightmare, the French team duo fly to the East on Sunday to meet up with Joakim Noah, after the Chicago Bulls home game with Detroit.
The Bulls center is having a stand-out season and is currently the fifth-leading rebounder in the NBA as well as the best passer among all big men in the league, with 4.1 assists per game.
Chicago have already secured a play-off spot in the Eastern Conference and determining Noah's availability to suit up for France in the summer after a long and tough season will be one of the main items on the duo's agenda for this trip.
The last stop of the US trip for Collet and Beesley will be in Washington where they will meet with another big man, Kevin Seraphin, after the American capital team's home game with Chicago on Tuesday.
The Wizards are out of contention for a play-off spot and Seraphin will have plenty of time to rest, following a very solid season where he is averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
His participation at the EuroBasket, especially if Noah decides not to join the French team,
will be a primary goal for Les Bleus in their efforts to repeat, or improve upon, their silver medal success in Lithuania in 2011.
Collet and Beesley return to France on Wednesday.