The good news for them is that they will not find the Lakers or Phoenix (interview conducted before the elimination of the Lakers) possibly before the Conference final. Going to the final would already be a very, very beautiful thing. You feel that Brooklyn and Philadelphia in the East are not going to be too limp in the final. I see Brooklyn first and Philadelphia nearby. But you feel that Brooklyn has a profile of NBA champion, even Philadelphia. I think the East has a good chance of winning this year.
Which would be quite incredible because at the base on paper, we expected more the Lakers for the confirmation …
Yes, but they have lost important players: Rajon Rondo and the two greats JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. I think we underestimated the pair they made in their team or from the moment you have LeBron (James) and « AD » (Anthony Davis) having roles and those on top of that, it pays for their role. And the injuries, the Covid, LeBron’s injury caused damage, because he managed to hold the team when he was all alone, without Anthony Davis. But behind, they exploded a little what.
For you, it is necessary to look more towards the East then, and towards Brooklyn in particular?
Yes, Brooklyn in particular. Utah has a very good game to play. And if Phoenix does manage to get the Lakers out (it did), what tells us it’s not going to be Chris Paul’s year? We have never had a season for a very long time with so little certainty. The two favorite teams, Brooklyn and the Lakers, will not have made ten full-strength games. That leaves total uncertainty. Utah had these certainties about their regular season quality, the quality of the defense around Rudy (Gobert). They played for a very long time without Donovan Mitchell and without Mike Conley. The players are not washing machines, you have to adjust, find automatisms, contacts, the collective. There is no gift.
Did a French player impress you more than another?
Ah Rudy (Gobert). Afterwards, I carefully observe the transformation of Evan Fournier in Boston. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot started well and played little, so it’s difficult. Théo Maledon had a great short season, a great short season. Sekou Doumbouya and Killian Hayes, it only played out at the end. Killian has shown things. We have a good representation, and we could have two French in the final in two different teams. It would be the first time.
Monclar: « Between Jokic and Curry, it will be played like between Federer and Nadal »
For the MVP trophy, would you reward Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid?
Jokic is ahead of a short head, ahead of Stephen Curry. And Joël Embiid was monumental, but he missed too many games, Jokic still has the merit of not having missed any game, and of having managed to maintain Denver in third place despite the injury of Jamal Murray. I think Jokic by the stats. Afterwards, for the feast of the eyes, Stephen Curry… (he blows, admiringly) He had a season .. I’m a little embarrassed by the rise of all the Americans (sic) who say Stephen Curry, while Stephen Curry has been crazy. Do what he did… We didn’t give him the MVP in 2016 of the final when in my opinion he deserved it. The Americans, it must tire them that after two years of Giannis Antetokounmpo, it is still a European MVP. This is also why I prefer Jokic and I imagine Jokic will be. After, between the two, it will be played as to choose between Federer and Nadal what (laughs).
Can Jokic be an MVP without taking his team to the end?
No, but Steph (Stephen Curry) did not take his team to the play-offs. If he had finished seventh I think that would have changed things a bit. The fact that he does not go to the play-offs… It’s still difficult to give the MVP to a player who has not made the play-offs.
At the collective level and despite Jokic, does Denver seem too fair to you today to go get the ring?
With Jamal Murray, I would have made them winners in the West, anything is possible. Especially since I find the Lakers (eliminated Thursday) for the moment not in place. They don’t defend hard enough, and when you don’t defend hard enough, you run less. And when we run less, we put less baskets in percentages, so there you go.