Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is reportedly unlikely to play at EuroBasket in September, a tournament the French national team director has said is mandatory for players who want to make the French Olympic team.
Noah, 30, is averaging 7.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season, following offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.
“The French team is a great experience, but it has never been my priority,” Noah told L’Equipe, according to The Associated Press.
Noah played at 2011 EuroBasket, helping France qualify for the 2012 Olympics, its first Olympic berth since 2000, when it won silver. But Noah missed the 2012 Olympics due to an ankle injury and did not play in 2013 EuroBasket or the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
The top two nations at EuroBasket will earn trips to the Rio Olympics. Spain and co-host France are favorites. If France fails to qualify through EuroBasket, it could still make the Olympics through a last-chance qualifying tournament in 2016.
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, who led France in scoring at the 2012 Olympics, reportedly plans to help qualify France for the 2016 Olympics at EuroBasket in September.
The San Antonio Spurs guard would be 34 come the Rio Games. He led France with 15.7 points per game to a deceiving quarterfinal exit at the 2012 Olympics.
France could have easily been the third best team in London. Its only losses were to the gold and silver medalists, the U.S. and Spain.
In 2013, Parker was MVP as France won EuroBasket. Parker sat out the 2014 FIBA World Cup to rest, and France won bronze without him and Noah.
Parker could be the veteran leader on a potential 2016 France team with Portland Trail Blazers swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Washington Wizards power forward Kevin Seraphin perhaps taking on bigger roles.