LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday night it is unlikely the league will take a break next summer for the Olympic Games, a decision that could dramatically affect the tournament if it is able to be played.
“We’ll consider it. I think it’s unlikely, at the end of the day, that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics,” Silver said in an interview with NBA TV inside the league’s bubble at Walt Disney World Resort. “Because, as you know, it’s not just a function of stopping for the period in which they are competing over in Tokyo. But they require training camp, and then they require rest afterwards.”
Silver’s remarks came before Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.
Because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — which resulted in the NBA having a four-month break in the middle of its schedule and the Finals taking place during what typically is the league’s preseason — next season is unlikely to begin until January, at the earliest. As a result, there is almost no way that, if the NBA plays its full season, it will be able to avoid conflicting with the Olympics, which are scheduled to take place in Tokyo from July 23 to Aug. 8, after they were postponed for a year.
With 108 international players on NBA rosters at the start of the season, the league has grown to have a significant worldwide footprint. That translates to the international game, where many of the sport’s top players lead their national teams in competitions each summer.
But due to the pandemic, those plans have been thrown into the air. In addition to the United States national team, which is led by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and features a slate of NBA stars, seven other teams have already qualified for the games:
Those teams include:
Host nation Japan, which features Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura
Nigeria, which is coached by Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown and has a potential roster including Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie and Orlando Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu
France, which includes Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Magic guard Evan Fournier, New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina and Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum
Spain, which includes Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol, Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio and Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez
Australia, which includes Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons, Spurs guard Patty Mills, Jazz forward Joe Ingles and Suns center Aron Baynes
Beyond that, a number of international teams are scheduled to compete for the final four spots in the Olympic tournament in four separate qualifying tournaments next summer. Most notable among those is the Canadian national team, which is coached by Raptors coach Nick Nurse and boasts a potential roster of NBA talent that rivals, and arguably exceeds, that of any team outside of the United States.
If the NBA season is going on during those tournaments, however, it could dramatically alter how they, and the games themselves, play out. While Silver acknowledged that, he also said that under the current circumstances there isn’t anything the NBA can realistically do about it.
“There are so many incredible players, beginning with the USA team, we’ll be able to field a very competitive team,” Silver said. “I am a bit worried about some of the international teams, because, as you know, some of their stars play in our league, and their absence would make a huge difference for those national teams.
“Having said that, 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? So I think during these extraordinary times, all the conventional rules are off the table, and everybody is going to have to make certain accommodations.”