ORLANDO • The Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with the National Basketball Association (NBA) this season, and commissioner Adam Silver has indicated that the league is expecting NBA players to not participate at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
With the start of the next NBA season postponed until at least January, a full 82-game schedule and play-offs would not be completed by the time the postponed Games begin in late July.
The Olympics originally were scheduled for this summer, but were pushed back a year because of the pandemic. In normal years, the Games take place during the NBA’s off-season, but that will not be the case this time.
“It’s unlikely, at the end of the day, that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics,” Silver said at the Disney World, where Game 3 of the NBA Finals tips off this morning (Singapore time).
“Because, as you know, it’s not just a function of stopping for the period in which they are competing over in Tokyo. They require training camp, and then they require rest afterwards.”
NBA players have been participating in international tournaments since the rules changed in 1989. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the USA “Dream Team” dominated the competition and they have won every gold medal since, except for the 2004 Athens Games when the team was left with a bronze medal, with Argentina winning the gold.
The lack of NBA players would affect not just the US. With more than 100 international players on NBA rosters, countries like Australia, France, Spain and hosts Japan, who boast Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura, would be impacted.
Coaches would also be in a tricky spot. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is set to lead Team USA in Tokyo, with Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr and Atlanta Hawks’ Lloyd Pierce his assistants.
Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown is set to coach Nigeria, while Toronto Raptors assistant Sergio Scariolo oversees Spain.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse will lead Canada should they qualify.
“I’d only say these are such extraordinary circumstances that, even if we set out to plan for the Olympics, how can they even know what the world is going to be like next summer and whether they can go forward?” Silver said.
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