KEY players from the French national basketball team could miss the Manila leg of the Fiba Olympic Qualifiers with their contracts expiring in the NBA.
French Basketball Federation director general Yann Barbitch said NBA veterans Boris Diaw of San Antonio and Nicolas Batum of Charlotte may not suit up for France in its quest for an Olympic berth in the July 5-10 tournament because they will be renegotiating their professional contracts.
Barbitch pointed out that the French roster will likely have NBA veterans Evan Fournier of Orlando, Rudy Gobert of Utah, and Joffrey Lauvergne of Denver, but both Fournier and Lauvergne will be restricted free-agents as well at the end of the current season.
Barbitch also added that the French delegation of 30, including at least 10 from media, could have Tony Parker only if the Spurs star is healthy and fit.
World No. 5 France has been drawn to play in the Manila tournament of the three-part wildcard qualifiers, battling Canada, Senegal, Turkey, New Zealand and host Philippines for the lone ticket to Rio.
Joakim Noah and Ian Mahinmi could be called up for duty but both NBA big men will also test the NBA free agency as unrestricted free agents this offseason, in what looms as the most lucrative free agency period yet.
With the NBA's new TV deal kicking in, more teams have immense cap space to lure star free agents. Many players are already lining up for bigger paychecks, including Kevin Durant and the mentioned French stars.
The free agency period affects the French team the most since teams can only start negotiating with free agents by July 1. And both parties are not allowed to sign a contract until July 8. The Manila leg of the Olympic qualifiers happen from July 4 to 10.
On the other hand, Canadian Basketball Federation president Michele O’Keefe said the national team, who will also play in the Manila qualifier, will have tune-up games in Europe before heading to Manila. But she added that due to the many NBA players in their pool, the roster may not be finalized until two weeks before the tournament. Among Canada’s NBA players are Andrew Wiggins of Minnesota, Kelly Olynyk of Boston, Cory Joseph of Toronto, and Robert Sacre of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile, Fiba sport and competitions director Predrag Bogosavljev is set to arrive in Manila with Fiba Asia secretary-general Hagop Khajirian on February 28 to conduct a two-day inspection visit.
The Fiba officials will first check out the MOA Arena map to determine conformity with the terms of the Host Nations Agreement, then they will visit the hotels suggested for the teams, VIPs, referees, FIBA working staff and media. They will also review local transportation arrangements, look over game schedules and set the stage for Swiss Timing to coordinate with a local provider to produce statistics, TV graphics and an accreditation system.