NICOLAS Batum remained unsure of joining France in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament this July, but expressed his willingness to play in Manila showpiece.
In a conference call with international media on Tuesday, Batum admitted his upcoming NBA free agency is preventing him from fully committing to the French national team set to compete in the Manila OQT for one of the three remaining spots in the Rio Games.
Batum is in the final year of his contract with the Charlotte Hornets this season.
“That’s a good question, and right now, I don’t know yet,” said Batum. “We’re still in the NBA season and there is free agency and stuff like that, so we are still talking about it.”
Despite the predicament, Batum said he wants to join the French national team which already drew the commitment of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker for the Olympic qualifiers. France is grouped with the Philippines and New Zealand in Group B.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be there, for sure,” said Batum.
While Parker is the face of the French team, Batum is seen as a dangerous threat to Gilas Pilipinas’ chances of advancing deeper in the Olympic qualifiers due to his versatility as a 6-foot-8 player who can play the shooting guard and small forward positions.
At this time, Batum’s focus is on the Hornets, who have clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I just tried to really to step up my game this year and to help my team reach the playoffs,” Batum said. “So now, with a new team and new challenge after the bad season I had last year, I think I did pretty well so far. But now I’m going to try to step up for the playoffs. I think I did pretty well this year.”
So far, the Hornets could finish at least sixth in the East as Batum described how the season has gone for the team that traded for his services during the last offseason.
“We have had a decent season on the whole, a few ups and downs, but overall we are satisfied with how things have gone. We have built a good team with [our] chemistry despite having several new players," he said.
“We have won 47 games, perhaps 48 if we win (on Thursday, Manila time) so it’s been a good season. Now we have to go up a notch and perform in the playoffs. We are ambitious and we want to try to create a surprise in the East and write our own piece of history,” added Batum.