The conflict between the schedules of the NBA season and the Tokyo Olympics seems to worsen as the next season gets pushed back.
Last year, the USA Men’s basketball team had an early exit from the FIBA World Cup. They didn’t even make it to the semifinals round during the tournament. The team that represented the country wasn’t the best that the country could provide.
They were superstar caliber players as the 2019 FIBA World Cup team had Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker. However, the usual names of Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Steph Curry, and Anthony Davis were missing. Their reasons were partly due to injuries and refusing to play back to back years of international basketball competitions.
NBA season schedule conflicts with Tokyo Olympics
Back then, no one knew about COVID-19. The top-tier superstars were adamant about saying that they will reclaim the name of USA basketball in the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, the declaration was a bit premature, as there is no assurance that they can play in the event.
The situation is very fluid because the next NBA season opener hasn’t been scheduled yet. The participation of the NBA’s best players will ultimately depend on that start date. A regular-season normally runs between five to six months. If the next season starts in January, as speculated, only 14 teams will be able to send their delegates.
The rest of the players from the other 16 teams will be battling it out in the Playoffs. The remaining teams will be able to offer top-quality players for USA basketball. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for other countries. The majority of their best players are in the NBA’s best teams.
This list includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Doncic, to name a few. These guys would definitely want to represent their teams. Unfortunately, the Playoffs schedule might get in the way.
NBA could follow the NHL Olympics break
If the NBA indeed pushes through with the January season opener, the league can go on as scheduled. When the Playoffs arrive or before it starts, the NBA can go on two to three weeks of hiatus to join the Olympics. The NHL does this for the Winter Olympics, and the NBA can do the same.
There are many reasons for the league to do this. Among these is the promotion of basketball on the world stage. Stopping international players from representing their own countries could be detrimental to the league. Also, the NBA may want to, in the name of pride, send only their best delegates to redeem their FIBA loss.