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Jun 27, 2024 4:18 pm

Victor Wembanyama, France excited to face Team USA in Olympics

Wembanyama

NBA Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama expects France to be ready for Team USA should the squads meet again at the Paris Olympics.

Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert of the Timberwolves anchor the French team that finished with the silver medal at Tokyo in 2021. New Cavaliers head coach Kenny Atkinson is an assistant coach for France.

“I can’t wait to face them,” said Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, who was 16 and not a member of the French team in Tokyo where the United States claimed gold. “As a basketball player, it’s also a dream to play against Team USA and even against all those players, all those legends.”

The host country and Team USA are not in the same pool to begin the Olympics.

But a snapshot of the promising basketball foundation of France was prominently displayed on Wednesday night. French forward Zaccharie Risacher was selected No. 1 overall in the draft by the Atlanta Hawks and Alexandre Sarr went second to the Washington Wizards. Tidjane Salaun was the No. 6 pick (Hornets) and Pacome Dadiet went 25th to the Knicks.

Wembanyama committed to the Olympics before entering the NBA, and the France roster doesn’t include Risacher, Sarr or other members of the 2024 rookie class. But there are multiple NBA peers on his team. They include 20-year-old Bilal Coulibaly of the Wizards, the only player on the team younger than Wembanyama and 35-year-old Nicolas Batum (76ers), the oldest player on the France roster.

France beat the United States 89-79 and snapped the country’s 58-game FIBA winning streak in the World Cup quarterfinals in 2019 behind 21 points and 16 rebounds from Gobert. Evan Fournier had 22 points.

Two-time gold medalist LeBron James said in 2023 after the United States lost to Canada in the FIBA World Cup that he was “in communication” with several players about participating in the 2024 Olympics.

Managing director of Team USA Grant Hill and head coach Steve Kerr have referred to this year’s Olympic roster as the most decorated since the Dream Team, comprised of the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing.

Kerr said Thursday that the current Olympic basketball team won’t have an easy road, echoing Hill’s position on the international pecking order.

“The game is different,” Hill said. “Our game in the NBA is starting to be more like their game. The talent and shooting have improved. Now, 30 percent of the NBA is international players. There’s still respect, but there’s not the sort of fear or the awe that was there 27 years ago.”

–Field Level Media

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