Nicolas Batum is joining the French basketball national team for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, Philippines set from July 5 to 10, 2016.
Initial reports stated that Batum is doubtful to join Les Bleus in this tournament because of his free agency status in the National Basketball Association (NBA). However, Batum was able to secure a five-year $120 million deal early in 2016 free agency allowing him to rejoin his compatriots in Manila.
Batum posted on social media Twitter his picture and passport and stated France’s battle cry of “Mission Rio”, a reference for goal in this tournament to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.
— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) July 3, 2016
While Batum is already on the way to Manila, it’s not clear if he will play for France in their first game against host country, Philippines. Les Bleus takes on the hosts on opening day (July 5), rests on the second day and faces New Zealand on Thursday (July 7).
The tournament format calls for a single round robin affair in the group stages with two groups. France is grouped with New Zealand and the Philippines while the other group features Senegal, Canada and Turkey.
The two best teams with the best record advance to the crossover semifinals so the top team in one group will meet the No. 2 team in the other group. The winners in the semis advance to the final and the winner in the championship round will go to Rio 2016.
Batum is a key player for France and his NBA team, the Hornets. Last year in the NBA, he averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in the 2015-2016 season.
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@nicolas88batum