NBA Rumors: 'Less Optimism' About Elite Players Participating in 2021 Olympics

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

United States' Kevin Durant, left, celebrates with teammate Carmelo Anthony (15) after he scored during a semifinal men's basketball game against Argentina at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

A delayed start to the 2020-21 NBA season has led to "less optimism" that the league's elite players will take part in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday there's "increasing skepticism" the NBA will find a way to prioritize next year's Games, which were postponed from this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, since international play is "barely a priority for the owners."

"Organizations see the wear and tear on players in whom they've invested hundreds of millions of dollars," Woj wrote.

If the NBA takes part in the Olympics, it'll likely utilize an extended break of around a month like the one previously used by the NHL to allow its players to compete in the Winter Games, per Woj.

The question will become whether the NBA, IOC and FIBA will reach an agreement to allow players who still want to play to leave their teams in the middle of an ongoing season if there's no built-in pause.

It's an option the NHL, IOC and IIHF denied to hockey players ahead of the 2018 Games. Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, who'd long maintained he would play in the Olympics regardless of the NHL's decision, was ultimately forced to withdraw from the Russian team:

"I see the news this week and I am very disappointed that IOC, IIHF and NHL put me and all NHL players in this position when some of the best players in world do not have chance to play in the Olympic Games. This is not just about me but all the NHL players who want to play and have a chance to win Gold for their country. Our countries are now not allowed to ask us to play in the Olympics. Me, my teammates and all players who want to go all lose. So do all the fans of hockey with this decision that we are not allowed to be invited. NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics. It sucks that will we not be there to play!"

The 2020 Olympic basketball tournament was also slated to serve as a chance at redemption for Team USA, which sent an undermanned roster to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup and finished seventh.

An event without any NBA players could still put the U.S. among the favorites since other countries would also lose their biggest stars, but it would be a major blow to both the tourney's intrigue and the Games as a whole, with basketball among its top attractions.

The 2020-21 NBA season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1. The opening ceremony for the 2021 Summer Olympics is set for July 23.