SAN ANTONIO (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - After another incredible season during which he led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Finals for the fifth time in their history, France's superstar guard Tony Parker is expecting another busy summer.
The 31-year-old is now focused on representing his country at the EuroBasket in Slovenia in September.
With Portland Trail Blazers rising star Nicolas Batum and Spurs teammate Boris Diaw by his side, Parker will lead the French national team as they look to build on their second place at EuroBasket 2011 and chase an elusive first European title while also booking their place for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
France have been drawn in Group A with Ukraine, Great Britain, Germany, Israel and Belgium.
The top six teams at the EuroBasket automatically qualify for FIBA's flagship event that will take place in Spain from 30 August to 14 September 2014.
Having one of the most talented squads on the continent, France head to Slovenia looking to go one better than in Lithuania in 2011, when they lost to Spain in the Final.
Parker, who has won three NBA titles with the Spurs, will be one of the biggest stars at the EuroBasket.
Having been a part of France's 'Golden Generation Team', that won the U18 European Championship in Croatia in 2000, Parker has been the flagbearer of the country's basketball since then.
He got his first cap with the senior national team in 2001 and helped them to a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2005 and silver in 2011.
Despite all of his success to date, Parker is still striving to achieve one of his most important goals: winning a title with the national team.
FIBA.com caught up with Parker to talk about the 2012-13 NBA season and playing with the national team this summer.
FIBA: The San Antonio Spurs barely missed out on their fifth NBA championship by losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. What are your thoughts about the season?
Parker: We had a great season even if we lost in the Finals. Nobody expected us to reach the Finals again but we almost won the title. The games were incredibly good and both teams could have won the ring. The Miami Heat are an incredible team and won Game 7, but we're not inferior to them. The Heat made the difference on some details and the decision was made in the last minute of the last game. We will work hard and come back stronger next season to try to win the title. We're still one of the most competitive teams in the NBA.
FIBA: You were named to the All-NBA second team for the second time of your career. What do you think about the season from a personal standpoint?
Parker: I did my best to help my team reach the title. I was healthy most of the season and worked hard to be the best player and competitor I could be. It's an honour to be named in the All-NBA second team alongside great players such as Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol and Russell Westbrook. I'm satisfied with my season at a personal level, even if I feel frustrated to have lost the title.
FIBA: You said a few weeks ago that playing for the national team is different than playing in the NBA. How is it different?
Parker: I never compare my NBA career with my national team career. It's completely different. Playing for your country is an honour. I give a lot of importance to representing my country and making people proud and happy for the national team. I remember how people were happy when we won the silver medal in 2011 in Lithuania. I want to win titles with the 'blue' jersey. It's one of my dreams and I'll work hard to reach it.
FIBA: The French national team has always been considered as one of the best in Europe. What do you think about the improvement of the team in the last few years?
Parker: I think that the team has been playing very well in the last few years even though we haven't won a title. We have a lot of talented players and the roster is very strong, but there's still this last step to reach the top. I think we've been working well and will be able to win titles soon as everybody is motivated to win championships. We'll be bringing our best competition to the EuroBasket in Slovenia.
FIBA: What will be the goal in Slovenia?
Parker: We'll fight to win the title. That's what everyone wants. After the bronze medal in 2005 and the silver in 2011, we hope to bring home gold. French basketball deserves a gold medal. It's something that I've been dreaming of and I'll do my best to win a trophy for my country. The tournament will be very competitive, but we have to do better than we did in 2011.
FIBA: A good performance at the Eurobasket would also mean that France book a place for next year's FIBA World Cup in Spain. Is it something you have also in mind?
Parker: The EuroBasket is my top priority. We have to play well in Slovenia and fight for the continental title. For sure it would be important to clinch a spot for next year's world cup, but my mind is only focused on the next competition. Everything happens in its own time.