As the NBA works toward finalizing its rest-of-season schedule for 2019/20 and establishing a new calendar for the 2020/21 league year, one key issue to consider will be whether next season’s schedule overlaps with the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo games have been postponed to 2021 and are now set to begin on July 23, which could coincide with the late stages of the NBA’s ’21 postseason.
Avoiding that overlap will likely be a priority for the NBA. Besides the fact that the league won’t want its Finals competing with the Olympics for viewers, there are many NBA players and coaches who expect to participate in the Tokyo Olympics — or in the qualifying tournaments tentatively scheduled to begin on June 29, 2021.
One of those coaches is Steve Kerr of the Warriors, who is still on track to be an assistant on Gregg Popovich‘s Team USA staff. However, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, Kerr remains in the dark on how next summer’s schedule will work and whether or not certain NBA personnel will still be involved in the Tokyo games.
“Believe it or not, I haven’t had a single conversation with Pop about that,” Kerr said. “And the reason is because we don’t know. We’ve been talking almost daily now for the last couple of weeks and before that we were speaking once every few weeks. So, we haven’t even had a single conversation because there’s nothing to report.”
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who is set to coach a Canadian team vying for an Olympic spot in a qualifying tournament next June, was equally uncertain about how things will play out, Reynolds notes.
“It’s complicated, is my best thought,” Nurse said. “I just don’t know enough to tell you what next season is going to look like. I don’t know. When’s it going to start? I think they’re talking about pushing it back, but I don’t know if they’re going to play games closer together. I don’t think so, that’s kind of a thing that everybody’s been happy that they continue to spread them out and lessen the back-to-backs and all those things.
“But if they do that, then it’s probably going to run into the Olympics, or really close to it, right? Lots of things that I don’t have a crystal ball on.”
If the NBA can finish its 2020/21 regular season sometime in May, that would give teams and coaches on non-playoff teams time to convene for camps, qualifying tournaments, and the Olympics themselves. But there’s no guarantee that those options will be available to NBA playoff teams, even if the Finals are scheduled to end before July 23.
For instance, if the Raptors and Nuggets make deep playoff runs, Team Canada may not have Nurse or Jamal Murray available for that qualifying tournament in late June. Nikola Jokic also might not get a chance to play for Serbia if Denver is still alive when those qualifying tournaments begin.
For now, the NBA is focused on how to safely complete its 2019/20 season, but the Olympics represent just one of many obstacles that the league will have to sort out once it shifts its attention to future plans.