NBA commissioner Adam Silver said it’s possible — albeit improbable — that the league takes a break in its 2021 season for the Olympics, should the schedules overlap.
Silver was asked on NBA TV on Friday if there might be a “work stoppage” or “something else” next July and August, assuming next season runs into the Tokyo Games.
“We’ll consider it,” Silver said. “I think it’s unlikely at the end of the day, that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics. Because, as you know, it’s not just a function of stopping for the period in which they’re competing over, it will be in Tokyo. But they require a training camp. Then they require rest afterwards.”
Silver said last week that his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.
In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.
The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.
Silver acknowledged last week that Olympic participation may be limited, including a scenario where the “top 15” NBA players aren’t in Tokyo, “but other great American players are competing.”
“There are so many incredible players, beginning with the USA team, we’ll be able to field a very competitive team,” Silver said Friday. “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.”
When the NHL has participated in the Winter Olympics, it took a break to allow full player participation. But that always happened midseason and close to the usual All-Star break, not during the playoffs.
The world men’s ice hockey championship is a better equivalent. That tournament happens annually in May, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. National teams sometimes add players mid-tournament as they get eliminated from the postseason.
“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?” Silver said Friday, echoing comments from a week earlier. “So I just think during these extraordinary times, all the conventional rules are off the table, and everybody is just going to have to make certain accommodations.”
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