Istanbul (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Watching powerhouse France struggle through Group A, where they lost twice to finish third, it's obvious retired superstar Tony Parker has left a major role that needs filling.
As the engine of the team, Parker ignited them through his ability to slice to the basket, make the right plays and provide veteran leadership. Without Parker, France have looked disorganized and seem unable to know where to turn when the going gets tough.
Nando de Colo, Evan Fournier and Thomas Heurtel have shown flashes at times of filling the breach but don't quite have the innate ability to control a game like the incomparable Parker, who was the FIBA EuroBasket 2013 MVP in France's title triumph and the leading scorer in the tournament's history until Thursday.
France had a reality check against undefeated Slovenia in their final Group Phase game in a major letdown. With top place in Group A up for grabs, they started slick - a noticeable improvement over previous sluggish starts - before being overwhelmed by Slovenia led by Goran Dragic, who ran circles around France's rugged defense.
Much rests on coach Vincent Collet and captain Boris Diaw to galvanize the team in a bid to avoid a shock early exit. Diaw admitted Parker's absence was noticeable but believed the team had to look forward.
"A little different (without Parker), but history keeps going and it is normal that guys retire," he told fiba.basketball. "Some years he is here, some years he is not. You have to play with the younger guys, which is fine. The style of play has changed a little bit but you have to adapt. The team has looked different with players having different roles. But the philosophy remains the same."
France's struggles at EuroBasket 2017 comes during a period of limbo for Diaw, who was waived by the Utah Jazz and remains an unrestricted free agent. He laughed off a possible reunion with Gregg Popovich - the pair were part of San Antonio's 2014 title triumph - and says he is open to a move back to Europe after 14 seasons in the NBA.
"I'm looking at different options, Europe might be an option," he says. "I'm open to any team in the NBA also."
Right now, Diaw is firmly concentrating on the task ahead, starting with the match-up against Germany, who are led by dynamic point guard Dennis Schroder. France have started slowly before, notably in 2013 when they had an early loss against Germany, but will need to improve markedly if their campaign extends into the final eight. They have of course also done it without Parker before - most noticeably in 2014 when they finished third at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Diaw is fully aware France needs to turnaround their fortunes from the get-go against Germany. "We need to get back on track," he says. "The last two games we haven't played well at all and need to get back into it. If we play like we've been playing, we know we aren't going to win because Germany is a good team."
Despite the challenge ahead, Diaw remains confident France can contend for a medal. "That's the goal otherwise I would have stayed home at the beach," he says. "We want to win a medal but it's hard and going to be a battle."