|19 April 2013|
|Tony Parker has not missed a single EuroBasket since first stepping out in 2001|
French superstar Tony Parker, who enters the NBA play-off race with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, has given fans back home plenty of reasons to look forward to next summer - and beyond.
Speaking to the French press, the 30-year-old point guard revealed his optimistic views on the upcoming EuroBasket campaign of 'Les Bleus' and the longevity of his own career.
"I hope [France will have a good EuroBasket], we've shown progress every year," he said in an interview published in daily Le Figaro.
"We have won two medals in recent editions."
France took bronze at EuroBasket 2005 in Serbia, and were defeated by Spain in the title game of EuroBasket 2011, in Lithuania.
Parker though is confident he will soon add a EuroBasket gold medal to his already extensive trophy case.
"We still have the highest summit to climb, the hardest," he said.
"We have to keep believing in it; we are no longer that far from Spain.
"[What we need is] to work well in preparation, arrive there in shape and have the best EuroBasket we can have."
Parker made his first EuroBasket appearance in 2001 and has suited up for France in each one of the following five editions of the big tournament, often after a deep play-off run with the Spurs.
There is no sign that his appetite for basketball has diminished.
Following his famous exchange, caught on a TV camera, with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich last season when the Frenchman reminded 'Pop' that he is 'only 29' and pleaded not to get subbed-out, it comes as little surprise that he plans to stick around for much longer.
"I have a lot of basketball in front of me, he said.
"I would still like to play another seven to eight years.
"All I have in my mind is to try to win a title this year."
Parker has been having perhaps the best of his many fantastic NBA seasons this year, averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 assists per night, but it has not exactly been trouble-free as he missed 16 games.
"I had a lot of small injuries and in fact I was not 100%, the ankle injury has slowed me down.
"I now have three days before the first game of the play-offs (Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers).
"But at this stage of the year, there are no more back-to-back games, you no longer have to play four times in five days, as it might be the case in the regular season.
"There are always one or two days of rest between games in the play-offs.
"I think it will go out and I will do my best to be 100% on Sunday."
|Nando De Colo has adapted well in his NBA rookie season with the Spurs|
Three linchpins of the French national team at EuroBasket 2011, captain and Parker's team-mate at the Spurs Boris Diaw, Portland Blazers forward Nicolas Batum and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah have also faced injury woes during the final stretch of the NBA Regular Season.
Parker however is not concerned that these problems will affect French preparations for the EuroBasket.
"France [training camp] is still very far, we have plenty of time, there is no reason to ignite that discussion now," he said.
"Preparations do not start before the end of July.
"Even if every single player was healthy today, it would not mean that we could cry victory ahead of time.
"There are still so many things that can happen until then."
Another French international whose progress Parker was able to monitor very closely this year was fellow guard Nando De Colo, who joined San Antonio from Valencia in the summer.
"I think he had a good rookie season," is Parker's assessment.
"It was not easy, he arrived at a team that is already well run-in and where competition is fierce.
"He adapted very well to the systems of the coach and earned his playing time on merit.
"Nando has won the trust of 'Pop' during the course of the season.
"I think we will see this on the court during the play-offs."