Paris 2024: with Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama, the French basketball team will have a defense of giants

Some will see it as a sign

Paris 2024: with Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama, the French basketball team will have a defense of giants

Some will see it as a sign. In Minneapolis, on the banks of the Mississippi, there is a green space called “Gold Medal Park”. And this year, two Minnesota Timberwolves players aspire to return adorned with gold from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (OG): Anthony Edwards, with the United States, and Frenchman Rudy Gobert. “It will be an incredibly competitive tournament,” anticipates the latter, whom Le Monde met on Tuesday April 9 in the city of Minnesota. But we are aiming for the title at home. »

To achieve this, while the United States has mobilized a constellation of stars, France will have to reconnect with its DNA. “We are a team with a defensive mentality above all,” recalls Rudy Gobert. Our defense is the reason for all our success with the France team. » Having somewhat forgotten it during the 2023 World Cup, the Blues fell from a height, eliminated in the group stage. “We had lost our identity a little, that must be a good lesson, one year before the Olympic Games,” continues the French pivot.

To correct the situation during the 2024 Paris Olympics, the Blues will count on their control tower from the Minnesota Timberwolves (2.16 meters), as well as on newcomer Victor Wembanyama. Author of a more than successful first National Basketball Association (NBA) season, the gigantic interior of the San Antonio Spurs should be a major reinforcement (2.24 meters) for the French team. And his association with Rudy Gobert has the basketball world salivating. “We are both capable of having a very positive impact on our team,” said the latter with a smile, impatient to evolve alongside the new NBA phenomenon. He has a unique profile. »

An inward-oriented game

The two French people are among the three finalists, announced on Sunday April 21, for the trophy for best defender of the year in the NBA – with the American pivot of the Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo, whose path they will cross in Paris 2024. And if the award seems promised, this season, to Rudy Gobert, who made his team the best defense in the league, his young compatriot (20 years old) could quickly walk on the borders of the triple winner – who would equal the record of Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace, NBA figures of the 1990s-2000s, in the event of a fourth trophy. “He has a very good chance of winning it this year, and it would be deserved,” observed “Wemby” at the end of March, before teasingly warning: “But let him win it now, because afterward it won't be his turn anymore . »

With the integration of Victor Wembanyama, the Blues' game will clearly lean towards the interior sector, closer to the basket; especially since the team suffers from a certain shortage in the playmaker position. “We have quite a few assets inside, even beyond our two twin towers,” admitted the French coach, Vincent Collet, interviewed by Ouest France on the occasion of D-100 of the Olympic Games. If the French coach, in place since 2009, rejects the term “revolution”, he intends to “reorient” his team’s play, to “play to its strengths”. Or “play bigger”, to combine “Wemby” with “Rudy” in a racket with devastating defensive potential.

Like the rest of the team, the two men will have to learn to evolve side by side. “We will have little time for preparation, but our chemistry will progress throughout the matches,” assures Rudy Gobert, convinced of his “ability to adapt to different types of players.” Forming for two years at Wolves a pair of “Twin Towers” ​​with the Dominican Karl-Anthony Towns, the pivot of the Blues is ready to do the same with the one who “will have a huge impact on the team”, who concludes: “We are all conscious. »