Tokyo Olympics postponed; USA Basketball faces new scheduling challenges

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had no choice in the end. On Tuesday it announced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 games due to the impact of the coronavirus worldwide.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the [World Health Organization] today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” was the core of the official statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

USA Basketball now faces a host of unprecedented challenges.

In men’s basketball, the USA has qualified for the Olympics (by virtue of its finish at the World Cup last summer). That will not change.

Who will represent the USA is up in the air.

The new dates for the 2020 Olympics have not yet been set. “A number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore,” IOC president Thomas Bach wrote recently. “The situations with millions of nights already booked in hotels is extremely difficult to handle, and the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted.”

We also don’t know what the next NBA season will look like. The league is focused on crowning a champion this season, which could have games running into August or September, and with that pushing back the start of the next NBA season. Will that season have a full 82 games or be shortened and end in June? Will the entire NBA calendar be shifted to a later start and end date? Currently, everything is on the table for the NBA.

Between the IOC and NBA schedules, USA Basketball faces more questions than it has answers right now. It’s not clear if NBA players will be able to participate in Tokyo next year.

It’s not just the USA that has questions. Spain, Argentina, France, Nigeria and a host of other nations that qualified for Olympic basketball have NBA players at the heart of their rosters. All of those players’ participation is up in the air.

USA Basketball has a list of 44 finalists to make the 12 man squad, set to be coached by the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich. How that list will change — and even if Popovich will be available to coach — remains to be seen as well. (It could be a better roster for Team USA whenever the Olympics are rescheduled, this summer many top players would have been hesitant to travel halfway around the globe to be in crowded conditions for the games.)

It was the right move by the IOC to postpone the games. Now comes the hard work of figuring out what comes next.