Prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals Friday, commissioner Adam Silver said it's unlikely that the league will take a break next summer for the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The decision could result in dozens of players not being able to take part in Team USA basketball if the season is still ongoing.
"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 NBATV. "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."
The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the 2019-20 season as the NBA was forced to take a four-month break in the middle of the regular season. With the NBA Finals just beginning this week, the start of next season will be pushed back and Silver recently said the regular season probably wouldn't start until January.
"My best guess is that even though it will be the 2020-21 season, that that season won't start until '21," Silver said. "We said a week ago or so that the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year, but the more I'm learning, even listening to Dr. Fauci this morning, I continue to believe we're gonna be better off getting into January."
When Silver revealed that the 2020-21 campaign may not start until January, he didn't mention a specific date. However, if the regular season doesn't begin until January, the regular season will definitely still be ongoing when Olympic training camps will begin. The Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8 in Tokyo after being postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of the 2019-20 season, there were 108 international players on NBA rosters. With that in mind on top of the players hailing from the United States, there is an abundance of players who will be missing the Olympics if the league doesn't stop for the festivities.
"There are so many incredible players, beginning with the USA team, we'll be able to field a very competitive team," Silver added. "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."
As Silver alludes to, there are several international teams that could be short multiple players on their rosters if the NBA doesn't shut down for the Olympic Games. France is one country that could be heavily impacted with players like Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier, Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum and New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina. Australia could miss players like Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles, San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills and Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes.
In addition, other international teams are scheduled to compete for the final four spots in the Olympics in qualifying tournaments prior to the Olympic Games next summer.