” Foul, red ball “, loose to young people, with seriousness, this referee not like the others. Nando de Colo had to take the whistle for a match. A few minutes later, he will put on his coaching costume with another team of budding basketball players. This week, the French international is in Nort-sur-Erdre, north of Nantes (Loire-Atlantique), where his summer camp has been held for several years.
Seventy young people, aged 10 to 17 and from all over France, are present for this edition which is being held after two years of absence due to the Covid. Nando doesn’t just go there to show up. Or ” just to put the name on the shirt. ” Nope, ” it’s really something that interests me. So he gets into it, really.
” I think it’s always good to be able to pass on to young people what I’ve been able to experience. We try to teach them the basics to try to pass a level. I took care of the planning. It is important for me to be able to teach this young generation. I did it throughout my professional career, or even before “, says the 35-year-old player.
The latter remembers the time when, when he was younger, he accompanied his mother, a coach, to certain tournaments. “ She left with two teams. She had one, I was coaching the 2nd when I was 10-12 years old. I’ve always liked having this exchange, not necessarily only with young people, but with my teammates. “, Continues the former player of the Spurs and the Raptors (2012-2014) who gave a few minutes to BasketUSA to discuss his news, in particular his recent signing at Asvel.
BasketUSA: Why this signing at Asvel? And what goals do you want to set after winning everything at European level?
Nando from Colo: I don’t have a French championship title yet, so we can start there. Afterwards, the project in general pleased me. To be honest, I was in contact with two, three clubs: Monaco and Valence above all. Each time I was asked the question, I explained it: Valencia only has one year of Euroleague, so it’s complicated for me to project myself. Monaco, it was a bit the same story. I have so much respect for Valencia (note: where he played from 2009 to 2012) that it bothered me to go back there for a year and see after what could happen, if I had to leave… In the end, it was played between Asvel and Fenerbahce. I come out of three years there where, overall, it was complicated because we change coaches and staff every year. We still manage to grab a title of Turkish champion this year. But starting from scratch is not always the best if you want to go as far as possible. Lyon has its little experience of the Euroleague and has Top 8 ambitions. That’s good, you have to go step by step and get this 4th title (in a row) of champion of France. Don’t go too fast, it won’t be easy. The club is trying to structure, I hope I can bring my experience and move things forward.
Did your closeness to Tony Parker play into the balance?
Nope ! To be honest, no, no. On career choices, concerning me, I try to see the overall project. It’s never good if a president wants you but behind, you don’t know exactly how it goes. As I told Tony, I’m more interested in the project than what’s on the contract right now, especially at this stage of my career. But I explained to him that I wanted to speak with TJ (note: Parker, the coach) to also have his feelings about the team, how we could evolve together. As my career progressed, I also learned to develop this relationship with the various coaches. The seasons are very long and even longer for me and the role I will have in the team.
A leadership role, can we imagine?
There is no set role. This will happen gradually. On the pitch, I think people are smart enough to know what I can bring to a team. Obviously, roles will be put in place. What is going to be important is how to manage the team so that it can last all season. We will have ups and downs, like any team. I don’t know all the players so obviously it will be up to me to adapt to each other. But that’s still more or less the role I’ve had for the past few years.
How did you react to the departure of Victor Wembanyama, which occurred just hours before the announcement of your signing?
I didn’t necessarily sign up to be with Victor. I know the player because we see him everywhere lately. I don’t know the person. It’s true that Tony, when we started the discussions, explained to me that in addition to everything he expected of me, it was a role of ‘mentor’ in relation to this young generation. Whether at Fener or in Moscow, as soon as there are things to say, I say them. That’s how we get things done. When we learned that he had preferred to take another path, he is free, it is his choice. I didn’t rely on that one way or another.
During your negotiations with Asvel, did you know that the Raptors, with whom you played in 2014, had again activated your “qualifying offer”, making you a protected free agent?
Apparently it’s every year. If I ever go back to the NBA, if a team wants to sign me and the Raptors line up, I should go to the Raptors. It doesn’t do much more to me. I loved my few months in Toronto but today I know very well that the NBA has been behind me for a few years now. Seeing this kind of news, it makes me smile but nothing more in the immediate future.
Have you thought about the NBA in recent years?
The real moment when I hesitated was in 2016, when I extended at CSKA. A lot of teams were interested but at what level? It was still very vague and we know that in the NBA, it happens especially in July. There, I had re-signed just after the Final Four, the season was not yet over so during May / June. I hadn’t asked myself the question anymore but it was the only time when something could have been done.
Ten years ago, you played a hundred games in the NBA (about 4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 12 minutes on average). Do you have any regrets about this experience?
No, no, no, no regrets. Life in general is made of choices, of opportunities. I clearly think that I did not have the opportunities that I would have liked to have. I found myself in a Spurs team that was already well structured and arriving from Europe, I did not necessarily have all the information that I would have liked to have to be able to impose myself. I had good times. Every time I had a few minutes of playing time, I was able to show something. Some matches where it’s less than two, three minutes, it’s immediately more complicated. It was not easy at the time, but no regrets. I continued to learn and my return to Europe went well.
Other players who dominate in Europe have had similar experiences…
There have been many and there will be more. We are entering into a discussion that can continue until tomorrow. Some players have shown that they are capable, others less so. It’s the same thing in reverse: a lot of Americans come to Europe thinking it’s going to be easy and ultimately they can’t adapt to the game. And it’s not just a question to adapt, these are also opportunities. Sometimes I am told that the European game is better for me. So, yes and no. Yes, because I demonstrated certain things. But if you look at the matches I was able to play in the NBA, over a little over ten minutes of playing time, I still showed that I was capable of playing.
The other information from your summer was the choice to skip Euro 2022 next September. How important was it to you?
You have to do the math. Since 2007, I have linked seasons and summers. In 2014, I didn’t do the World Cup but I still went to the end of the preparation. In 2018, I did the windows in June and September. I haven’t had a vacation since. I am not the only one in this situation. I think Nico (Batum) must have missed two max. When the seasons go from September to mid-June and after that you have to follow up with the France team, at some point you also have to put things in their place. It’s just thought about what would be best for the rest of my career. I clearly want to go to the Olympics (2024) and for that, I need a break today. It feels good to be a little more with the family even if we are not bad on the road. Of course, I will follow what happens. There is a way to get a big result, I hope they will.
How do you see yourself in two years?
Today I am fine. I have at least two big seasons ahead of Asvel. Then the Olympics, it will most likely be my last with the Blues. I don’t see it as an early retirement with the France team. I want to be part of the team because I can contribute and because we want to get a result. It’s not just saying goodbye, I don’t really care. There, I have to explain the why and how in relation to this summer. But if the silver medal in Tokyo had been my last game with the Blues, I wouldn’t have needed everyone to know about it before it happened. I want to have a big season with Asvel, have a good world championship (2023) to prepare for the Olympics where we will aim for the gold medal. While remaining modest, I think we have the qualities and the workforce to get it. It is not overestimating ourselves to project ourselves on the gold medal. We know that the American team is still very strong and that other nations will start to rise. But focusing on us is the most important thing. Behind, I will surely have one last contract. We’ll see how it goes.