HoopsHype.com Interviews

Mickael Gelabale: "It's tough not having Parker around"
by Simon Wilkinson / August 29, 2006

Greece stopped you from reaching the European Championship final last year and now stand in your way of making it to the last four of the World Championship. How do you feel about France’s chances this year?

Mickael Gelabale: Well, we all learned something from our heartbreaking loss to them last year. We’ve gained in experience. They’ve stood in our way at the crucial stages. Tomorrow will be a must-win game for both teams.

France had not reached the World Championships in 20 years so some might say that reaching the quarter finals is already a good result and that anything more is an added bonus. Do you agree with that view?

MG: No, I think to a certain extent the bonus was to reach the knockout stages. Qualifying for this tournament with our third place finish at last year’s Eurobasket was a good effort and now we just have to keep it going as much as we can.

Do you see that you have a different role on the team this year than you did in Belgrade last year?

MG: Well, I guess with Tony Parker being out we all have slightly different roles. When he plays, we let him do what he does and sometimes we get caught up watching. Now that he isn’t around, we all try to compensate for his absence.

Not having Tony Parker is obviously a tough blow, but at the same time it allows the other players to develop a bit more of their game?

MG: It’s definitely tough not having Tony around. However, at the same time, we have to try and turn it into a sort of positive. It means we have to do more and we can play the type of basketball we know instead of letting the game come to us. It can help us be a more dangerous team for next year’s European Championship.

Without him, France doesn’t really have a superstar player.

MG: We have Boris Diaw who’s our leader now and the great thing about him is that he can play every position. He can be a point guard and pass the ball or he can play for himself.

Speaking of Boris, do you think he has a natural position?

MG: No, but he’s always been that kind of player. He is versatile and can play anywhere on the floor. Actually, he told me recently that he’d played some center for Phoenix and I didn’t expect him to say that cause I thought he played the guard positions and the forward positions. He’s guarded Shaq.

Speaking of Shaq, you will have to contain a player nicknamed Baby Shaq (Sofoklis Schortsanitis, a 6-foot-9 center) in tomorrow’s game. He left Yao Ming a bit shook up in Greece’s game against China. How tough will he be to guard?

MG: Very tough. I don’t think any one player is going to be able to stop him from getting in the paint. We’re going to have to double-team him and crowd him a lot.

Greece is renowned for its stifling full-court press. How will you deal with it?

MG: We have an offense to beat that kind of defense and we’ll work on it some more today in training.

Let’s talk NBA a bit. Obviously you’ve got a future teammate on the French team in Seattle Supersonics center Johan Petro. Have you guys talked a bit about the team, the players and the city?

MG: Not too much because I enjoy figuring things out for myself when I get to a new team. I don’t like knowing too much before I get there. The challenge is to get over there and try to adapt as well as I can by myself. But we do talk about it now and again.

Are you looking forward to joining the NBA?

MG: Yeah, of course. But before that time comes, there are things to do. I’m happy to be here at this tournament and I hope we can go further.

Simon Wilkinson writes for FIBA.com and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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