Good news for France, bad news for Turkey.
French coach Vincent Collet disclosed top wingman Nicolas Batum will suit up for the Les Bleus on Saturday when they take on familiar European rival Turkey in a crossover, knockout semifinal match of the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Yes, he’ll play (on Saturday),” said Collet, 53, confirming the availability of Batum who was in uniform but was not utilized in the course of France’s come-from-behind 66-59 victory over tough New Zealand on Thursday night to complete a two-game sweep of Group B.
Although Batum failed to see action in the preliminary round, including in their 93-84 win over host Gilas Pilipinas last Tuesday, Collet said the Charlotte Hornets wingman is in top form ahead of what promises to be an explosive showdown with the Turks, with a finals spot on the line.
“He’s in good shape,” said the French mentor. “But the problem is, he has not played 5-on-5. He couldn’t play his usual position.”
Batum signed a lucrative five-year deal worth $120 million with the Hornets and Collet sounded confident the team officials would get the clearance from the NBA in time for their semis match.
“We’ll get it tomorrow (Friday),” he said. “I would like to play him tonight but it wasn’t possible. We didn’t receive a guarantee from the NBA. He signed the contract today but it was not validated.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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