Tony Parker guided France to a 79-71 victory over Russia to reach the final of the 2011 European Championship. The win meant that France would return to the Olympics for the first time since 2000. It also meant that Parker will finally play at the Summer Games. Parker talked to reporters after the game and heinnews’s David Hein was on hand to ask some questions as well. Parker talked about a dream coming true, how he feels no more pressure now, and the long hunt and hurt to reach the Olympics.

heinnews: Tony, you have reached the Olympics, how do you feel?

It’s like a dream come true. I’m so happy. I’ve been chasing for 11 years. And I had tears in my eyes when the buzzer came and I knew that we won the game I was so happy. It’s hard to describe. I’m very proud to play for the French team and very proud to be French.  And I believe in this team. It was our year and we played great tonight. I’m very happy after 11 years of chasing that I can finally say I’m going to the Olympics.

heinnews: And now you are finally playing in a EuroBasket final.

Parker: It’s gonna be great. I played three finals in the NBA and now it’s my first final in Europe. I’m so happy.

heinnews: What about playing Spain in the final?

Parker: Spain are the favorites. We have nothing to lose. We’re just going to go out there and play the best game that we can. Spain are in the final again and they are playing great basketball. We respect them a lot, so it’s on us to have a great game and try to beat them.

heinnews: Ali Traore had a great stretch in the third and fourth quarter. How big of a help was that?

Parker: Everybody played great. It was a great team effort.

heinnews: What has changed for you in these years chasing the final and the Olympics?

Parker: I think the experience. The tough losses in ’05 and ’07. And then in ’09 losing in the quarterfinals when we were playing great. We were 6-0 and then we played Spain in the quarters because they played bad in the qualification round. So it was just tough year after year. It makes it even sweeter now. Because now I don’t even care what happened in the past. Now all I care about is that I’m going to the Olympics and I’m sure to have a medal. And I’m going to try to have the best one.

heinnews: France are a very physical team. How much does this strength help you in the final?

Parker: We are hungry. We battled a lot. All those years. It creates a fire inside of you to try to win. That’s where it comes from.

heinnews: What does adding Joakim Noah do for the team?

Parker: He brings us toughness. I’m very happy he decided to play for us. He’s huge for us inside, especially after losing Ronny Turiaf. We definitely needed him.

heinnews: Is it true that you told him to come?

Parker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I talk to Joakim all the time. I was like, I need help. You need to come and play with us. At the European level you need to have big guys inside. Otherwise you’re not going to go anywhere. Look at Spain. They have both Gasols and Ibaka. Russia have Kirilenko and Khryapa and Mozgov. I was like we need some inside guy to be more tough and be physical. We had the talent on the guards but we needed more help inside.

heinnews: What did you think about comments after the Spain game that you lost the game purposely?

Parker: I’m not worried about that. I’m just focused on my team and what we need to do to go to the finals. So they can say whatever they want but we are in the final.

heinnews: You said Spain are favorites. Do you feel any pressure in this final?

Parker: I don’t feel any pressure. I feel like we have nothing to lose. Spain are a great team. They’re great at every position. And I respect them a lot. And it’s going to be a tough game for us.

heinnews: What does this mean for you personally?

Parker: I feel like I have no more pressure now. I feel like the whole pressure of the nation is off me (laughs).

heinnews: How good was it to have that game against Spain off?

Parker: I was hurt personally. I played a lot of minutes. I don’t care what the Spanish newspapers say. I was hurt. My thigh was hurting. And I played a lot of minutes in the qualification round. And I was tired. I’ll be honest. I was tired. So, there was no reason for me to kill myself against Spain when we knew that the biggest games were the quarter-finals and semi-finals. And I don’t know if you saw Joakim’s leg, but he had a huge bruise. We’re not trying to give games away. Not at all. It’s just that we were hurting.

heinnews: Talk about Nicolas Batum.

Parker: He was big tonight. You can see him mature. He’s playing a lot better than two years ago. And he played great for us tonight.

heinnews: Did you see Juan Carlos Navarro’s performance tonight?

Parker: Yeah, he was great like always. He’s a difference maker. He goes very aggressive to the basket, hitting threes and doing everything. Him and Pau Gasol are the keys to that team.

heinnews: One key about the Spain game?

Parker: We have to try to slow down Navarro and Pau Gasol. But they’re good at every position. Marc Gasol is playing great too. Defensively they are very good too. They’re just overall a great team.

 

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