By Antonis Stroggylakis / email@example.com
The possibilities of many NBA players, including major stars, joining their national teams in the Olympics and their Qualifiers are currently appearing to be less than slim after NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that it’s “unlikely” that the league will stop for the games in Tokyo.
With the 2021 NBA regular season beginning no earlier than January and if it features the usual schedule of 82 games over a period of six months, then it will be concluded in early June (the best-case scenario) or maybe even July. The Olympic Qualifiers, featuring NBA players-led national teams like Serbia, Canada, Greece, Italy or Slovenia, are planned to start on June 29.
There’s no way for someone like back-to-back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo or Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic for example, to play in the Qualifiers… unless their clubs don’t make the playoffs.
The whole situation creates an unpleasant reality for all those players that were hoping to be with their national teams in the Olympic summer, including Italy’s Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli, and Nicolo Melli The three Italian national team stars hope that the NBA will find some way to accommodate their need and desire to play with their country next summer and that a solution towards that direction will be found.
“We asked the Players Association (NBPA) to work to find an agreement for a window to leave the NBA and go to the national team,” Gallinari said during the “Festival dello Sport,” organized by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. “And to ensure that the players don’t have to face an unjust and difficult choice.”
Belinelli mentioned that the absence of NBA stars from the Olympics is hurtful for both the league and the tournament in Tokyo. “The Olympics can’t exist without NBA stars,” Belinelli said. “It would be bad. We all care about our country’s jerseys and we all want to play in the Olympics.”
Italy will play in the Qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, along with Senegal, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and the hosts.
“It would be a pity. Also for the NBA which had has an international MVP for two years,” Melli said, referring to Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak will also most probably miss the Qualifying tournament in Toronto, Canada where his country will compete for a spot in the Olympics.
“But we must also be very realistic, we are experiencing something unique,” Melli added.