TONY Parker may be the heart and soul of France, but national coach Tab Baldwin sees Nicolas Batum presenting a bigger problem for Gilas Pilipinas in the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Baldwin said Batum will influence the kind of team he will build for the qualifier owing to the versatility the Charlotte Hornets wingman brings to the French squad – a 6-foot-8 player comfortable in both guard and forward positions.
“We see that France is going to play Batum at the two-guard and that presents a problem from a size standpoint,” said Baldwin.
Gilas Pilipinas previously faced France with Batum leading the way with 16 points in a 75-68 win during a pocket tournament in 2014 in the run-up to the Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Parker of the San Antonio Spurs was not around during the game.
Baldwin said he is still undecided on what kind of team he will have for the qualifier at this point of Gilas’ preparations as the composition of France, as well as fellow Group B team New Zealand, will play a vital part in the decision process.
“We want to see as much as possible who is in the France and New Zealand roster. I won’t say it’s a luxury but we have the opportunity to morph our team a little bit because we have pretty good players at the guard line,” said Baldwin.
The 57-year-old American-New Zealander, however, is looking at the selection of the guards as the most crucial.
“Is it going to be that we expect Gabe (Norwood) to play a lot more minutes because of his defensive prowess on the wing and the type of wings that France will come at us, or do we say, we want to go big against Parker because Parker will be there, so it minimizes the need for smaller point guards. All of those questions, we asked,” Baldwin said.
He stressed Gilas has a rich source of talent at the point guard spot that includes LA Tenorio, Jason Castro, Terrence Romeo, and Paul Lee, but their ability to defend the likes of Parker, arguably the face of the French national team, will be a key.
“We know our guards can score. But can any of them, if we decided to choose them, slide over not offensively but defensively into an off-guard or shooting guard slot and can they do that job well and who will they try to do it against,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin reiterated the game against France is definitely a must-win for Gilas when they face each other on July 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena
“We need to beat France. We can survive if we lose to France and beat New Zealand, but there is no guarantee that New Zealand is going to lose to France because they’ve beaten them before. It’s going to be foolish for us to invest a lot in beating New Zealand and hope that New Zealand loses to France. That’s foolish thinking. You have to plan for the worst case scenario and avoid that scenario, and that means preparing to beat France,” said Baldwin.
“But that means that if you beat France, you want to beat New Zealand, and after that, if you do that, you are going to face the other group, how will your roster stack up against that. It’s a very complicated process,” he added.