Wizards forward-center Kevin Seraphin heads into this offseason having to decide between advancing his NBA career or maintaining his commitment to his country.
Seraphin has played a prominent role for the French national team in each of the past two summers and helped France finish sixth at the London Olympics. But Seraphin’s third season with the Wizards fell short of his expectations despite averaging a career-high nine points per game, leaving his participation at 2013 Eurobasket in Slovenia in doubt.
“I don’t know. That’s something that I really want to,” Seraphin said of representing France, “but the thing is now, I try to improve. The [Wizards] want me to improve, too. I try to be better for my team, for sure.”
Nene has decided to rest for the final two games of the season, which should give Seraphin a chance to finish on a good note. Seraphin accepted his role this season as a backup to “two beasts” in veterans Nene and Emeka Okafor, who both possessed skills and experience that exceeded what he was able to contribute.
“I know I come after,” Seraphin said. “I cannot say I deserve to play more than them because they do a really good job. They both have an impact on the game, they change the game. I can learn from them. That’s it. I know my turn will come.”
But Seraphin also knows that he needs to become a better rebounder and passer and a much more consistent offensive threat. He is shooting just 45.8 percent, grabbing 4.3 rebounds and committing more than twice as many turnovers (1.6) as assists (0.7).
Seraphin exploded after JaVale McGee was traded to Denver for Nene at the trade deadline last season and scored in double figures in 22 of the last 25 games, including the final 16. He has reached double figures in 32 of 77 games this season and failed to take advantage of Nene’s absence through the first nine games of the season.
“This is really my first season for me,” Seraphin said. “Because my first season, I really didn’t play. Then my second season, we had the lockout and I start to play at the end of the year. Now this is the first season that I got 82 games and I really got a role on the team and they expect something from me, so now I think I know where I want to be in the future. I know where I want to go.”
Set to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, Seraphin has more at stake and much more to prove next season. Seraphin said Wizards brass has stressed his importance to the organization going forward and the need for the 6-foot-9 big man to get his body better prepared to handle an 82-game season. That would require him to train more in Washington.
Seraphin, a native of French Guyana, admits that he is conflicted.
“If it was up to me, I’d be there every year,” Seraphin said of the French national team. “It’s not about that. I want to improve, that’s it. Workout, all the summer. Get better on my shape and my conditioning. So that I will be able to play 82 games straight and be consistent. I need to work out, watch a lot of video to understand how the NBA game goes, because I’ve been playing the FIBA game. I’ve been raised on that game.”
Seraphin said he plans to speak with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Randy Wittman before deciding which path he will take. He has already proven that he can difficult choices, having ditched his longtime agent, Bouna N’diaye, in December to hire Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James. Now he has to make a decision about advancing his career.
“I just don’t know yet, because I really want to practice and get better on my game,” Seraphin said. He added that if he doesn’t play for France, “I’m going to be in D.C. a lot. I’m going to work sometime in Paris and see my family, but most of the time, I’m going to be in D.C.”