|13 June 2013|
|Having won silver in 2011, Nicolas Batum and France are aiming at another podium finish at the upcoming EuroBasket|
French small forward Nicolas Batum is currently on holiday in Paris but is relishing his national team's prospects at the upcoming EuroBasket in Slovenia, notwithstanding impeding changes in their frontcourt.
"We have enormous chances at the EuroBasket, despite counting with two big men less because of the absences of Kevin Seraphin and Ludovic Vaty," Batum told the basketactu.com website.
"I still don't know what Joakim [Noah, of the Chicago Bulls] will do, but Alexis [Ajinca, of Strasbourg], Ian [Mahinmi, of the Indiana Pacers] and Ronny [Turiaf, of the Los Angeles Clippers] have had big seasons and will give a balance with the perimeter, where we have a great bunch of players."
"Our objective [at the EuroBasket] is to reach as far as possible and step on the podium," Batum added categorically.
When asked whether Spain would be once again the team to beat, the 25-year-old Portland Trail Blazers forward admitted that 'this is the only team, technically speaking, that has beaten us over the last two EuroBaskets'.
Spain had prevented France from reaching the semi-finals at EuroBasket 2009, en route to their first gold-medal success, and then defeated Les Blues again in the EuroBasket 2011 final, to defend their title.
Noah was the starting center for that great French team at the last EuroBasket but has just gone through a season plagued by injuries with Chicago and had to play trough the pain in the NBA play-offs, where his team fell to the Miami Heat in the second round.
Seraphin, who plays for the Washington Wizards, was also on the silver medal-winning side of 2011 but announced in the spring that he would not join Les Bleus this summer, as he preferred to follow an individual training program.
Meanwhile the 24-year-old Vaty, of EuroChallenge semi-finalists BCM Gravelines Dunkerque, is being forced to end prematurely his basketball career because of a heart problem detected in May.
Batum faced health issues of his own towards the end of the NBA season and missed Portland's final few games, but he joked that 'knock on wood, I am still in one piece.'
"I am resting now, I had some problems with my shoulder this year, but beyond that I have not had a really big injury, just a few glitches," he explained.
Most importantly, he has been elevated to a go-to player at Portland over the last couple of seasons.
"I do not look at [Greg] Oden, [LaMarcus] Aldridge and [former team-mate Brandon] Roy any more to take orders in the clutch moments.
"It is me that others turn to in the clutch now.
"I have to assume my responsibilities and that is very encouraging.
"Even off the field and with the media [in the United States], I'm much more secure and respected now."
France were drawn in First Round Group A at EuroBasket 2013, which tips off on 4 September, together with Belgium, Germany, Israel, Ukraine and Great Britain.