Damian Lillard unsure about Olympics with tight NBA turnaround

Damian Lillard
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Count Damian Lillard as unsure if he will make himself available for Olympic selection next summer given the shorter-than-usual break between the end of the NBA season and the Tokyo Games.

Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers star point guard, said he would “possibly” stay in the U.S. selection pool if Portland makes an NBA playoffs run.

The Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony on July 23 will likely be within a week of the end of the NBA Finals. The NBA season starts Dec. 22, two months later than usual and with 10 fewer regular-season games per team.

“I don’t know 100 percent,” Lillard said Tuesday about the Olympics. “We’ll see what that looks like. That’s around my birthday [July 15]. Hopefully, we’re in the Finals, but if we go to the Finals and win it, I ain’t playing. If we win the Finals, I’m not playing the Olympics, but we’ll see.”

U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich said later Tuesday that how roster selection will work is to be determined. Noteworthy: an early July training camp for potential Olympians that will take place during the playoffs.

“The scenario, as it stands right now, does seem problematic,” he said. “The timing does make everything difficult and will demand some real soul-searching and out-of-the-box type of thinking to put together the best team we possibly can.”

Lillard, 30, is a five-time NBA All-Star and one of the best players in the league yet to play in an Olympics or a FIBA World Cup.

He was a late add to the U.S. national team pool ahead of the Rio Olympics, then withdrew from consideration a month and a half before the Games to rest after the NBA season.

Other point guards on the list of 44 Olympic team finalists named by USA Basketball in February included Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Players can be added or removed from the list as the Games approach.

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