Utah Jazz center and Frenchman Rudy Gobert made one of the strongest public commitments yet to Olympic participation of the world’s top male basketball players.
Many others are wait-and-see with the shortest break between the NBA season end and the start of the Games since NBA participation began in 1992. A potential NBA Finals Game 7 will be on July 22 and the first men’s basketball games in Tokyo on July 25.
“My goal is definitely to play,” Gobert said last week. “Obviously, if we go to the NBA Finals, and we go to a Game 7, I might miss the Opening Ceremony, but hopefully we can figure it out.”
Gobert, 28 and a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, said he plans to join the national team as soon as possible after the Jazz season ends next spring or summer.
“The vacation will probably be after the Olympics,” he said.
Gobert would be the centerpiece of a medal-contending French roster in Tokyo.
At last year’s FIBA World Cup, France beat a U.S. team lacking NBA superstars in the quarterfinals en route to a second straight bronze medal.
If the U.S. has any weakness, it’s big-man depth, especially if Anthony Davis doesn’t go to Tokyo (note the Los Angeles Lakers are favored to repeat as NBA champs, and Davis said back in February that he didn’t know if he would accept an Olympic roster spot, before the one-year postponement).
France lost to Spain in the last two Olympic quarterfinals, sending Tony Parker into retirement without an Olympic medal. France has several players in the NBA even without the stalwart point guard, far more than in the pre-Parker era.
Gobert was joined at last year’s World Cup by veteran swingman Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier, the Orlando Magic’s starting shooting guard.
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