After a bit of time away, heinnews returned this week for a chat at EuroBasket 2009 with France power forward Ronny Turiaf. They discussed France’s young talent; how France improved over past EuroBaskets; Ricky Rubio’s decision to stay in Europe; qualifying for the 2010 World Championship.

heinnews: Ronny, this France team has two players who had hugely successful recent youth European Championship tournaments – Nicolas Batum and Antoine Diot. There are a few more top young talents coming up as well. What’s your opinion of the youngsters?
Turiaf:  I love those guys. I tell them all the time that I love them. They bring so much joy and so much enthusiasm. Some times we need that. That’s why when you mix a little bit of the two golden generations.

heinnews: France had struggled in recent EuroBaskets. What was different this time around?
Turiaf: Coach (Vincent Collet) has helped us. He told us that if you want to win you have to sacrifice. If you really want to win, you really want to win, you will do it. It’s not like you have to do it. You will do it. And that’s what hasn’t happened in the last couple Euros. We knew that we didn’t have to so maybe we didn’t do it as well as we could.

heinnews: But this time you have reached your goal of qualifying for the 2010 World Championship.
Turiaf: Yeah it feels good. The coach told us before the game: I forgot to tell you yesterday, if we don’t win, we have to go through classification games. That put a bit of pressure on us (smile). It feels good because we worked hard to get where we are. Having to play Spain (in the quarter-finals) was a big task. Losing that game took a lot out of us and really brought our spirits down. Winning today (against Turkey) and qualifying for the World Championship feels good. It warms the heart, unlike 2007.

heinnews: Speaking of which, did you think about 2007 while you were in the locker room at half-time (against Turkey)?
Turiaf: No, we didn’t think about it. We gave all we had on the court. That’s it. Turkey, who might have been tired following their defeat after overtime yesterday, wanted to pick themselves up right away. We knew it. We weren’t aggressive enough defensively at the start of the game. But we defended harder and harder. As the game progressed, they started missing shots. We were bothering them more and more. We were in their passing lanes. It got to the point where they didn’t have any more solutions. That’s how we were able to open up a lead and win the game.

heinnews: Were you at all worried at any time?
Turiaf: No, we were just frustrated. We had the desire but we couldn’t get things done. Despite that, we know we’re like a steamroller on defense. And we proved it throughout the tournament. When you play hard on the defensive end, after a while, your opponents will get tired. If we weren’t good defenders, when we’re down by 19, the game is over and we go home.

heinnews: Did you have trouble preparing for the Croatia game for fifth place – which is totally meaningless?
Turiaf: I can’t speak for the others but when I saw ‘Bobo’ (Boris Diaw) fall and hurt himself, it scared me a bit. If I could rest easy, that would suit me fine. I wouldn’t want to go back to Golden State injured. They’ve already called me two days ago to tell me I had better come back in good health. We (France) have done the minimum (in booking place in the World Championship). We’ll go for the win, but I don’t want to get injured.

heinnews: Looking back, what are your thoughts on EuroBasket 2009?
Turiaf: We are still frustrated when we think “what if we hadn’t faced Spain?” I think that Spain is above and beyond all others. Had we played another team, maybe we would have stood better chances. There’s a bit of anger and sadness at the same time. But you know, you can rebuild another world with ‘ifs’.

heinnews: Okay, a couple other issues. What do you think about Ricky Rubio’s decision to stay in Spain and head to Barcelona instead of going to the NBA?
Turiaf: His decision is a personal decision and I’m sure he had the right people around him, talking to him and giving him advice. And I think he made a decision that was best to his knowledge. That’s something that’s up to him. He had a great contract overseas and if he wants to keep playing in Spain and enjoying the stardom that he has been enjoying, that’s up to him. I think he’s very happy about his decision. If had been another team would he have come to the NBA, I don’t know. But he’s a young player. He wants to be around his family and be a kid. And if he’s just riding the wave and enjoying himself, then go for it.

heinnews: A number of Europeans made headlines last off-season for returning to Europe. What do you think about that issue?
Turiaf: With the euro being so high compared to the dollar, if you have the same contract in Europe, tax-free, it’s definitely more financial sensible to go overseas. And I think they can’t lie about the reason for them not coming to the States or going back being anything other than that. Financially it’s much better for them. And European players also like the European lifestyle more – the travelling, the two practices a day. Just the whole environment around basketball there is different. It’s a pretty big culture shock for Europeans to come to the States and enjoy themselves. And the ones that do stay there.

heinnews: Like you …
Turiaf: Yeah, I am enjoying myself very much.

heinnews: And how much time do you spend with other Europeans in the NBA?
Turiaf: My three best friends on my team are European – Andris Biedrins, Marco Belinelli and Rob Kurz. You just feel comfortable around each other. I’m not saying I don’t like hanging out with Americans. Because that is not true. But before the game if there are Europeans on the other side I will go over there and say hi.

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