The leadership for the United States men’s basketball team will remaining in place in 2021
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were officially postponed until 2021, posing a serious question about the future of Team USA’s leadership in basketball. Would 71-year-old head coach Gregg Popovich, who has long been rumored to retire after the Olympics, and 80-year-old executive director Jerry Colangelo, who has not held an official role with an NBA team since his controversial exit from the Philadelphia 76ers, be willing to return for a delayed run at the gold?
The answer, unequivocally, is yes. Colangelo confirmed that his commitment and Popovich’s are still intact to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
“The commitments everyone made for 2020 are still there, we’re all in and we’re committed,” Colangelo said. “It’s important to deal with the unknowns and this virus. This too shall pass and we’ll be back for everyone’s well being.”
Of course, the commitments of Popovich and Colangelo do not guarantee the presence of the NBA superstars that usually populate Team USA. There are currently a number of barriers that could prevent elite NBA talent from traveling to Tokyo for the game. The status of the coronavirus is chief among them, as it is not yet known whether or not a vaccine or any solutions will be available in time for the 2021 Olympics.
But there are also logistical concerns present in a reoriented NBA season. If, for example, the NBA were to resume play this season in June or July, that could potentially push next season back as well. That might force NBA players to remain in North America to close out their seasons rather than travel to Japan for the Olympics. This is a possibility Colangelo is aware of, but doesn’t anticipate causing major issues.
“We will follow the leader. We have to wait to see how everything is laid out and we’ll make the adjustment,” Colangelo said. “Our players are NBA players first, let’s face that.”
“Changing the window for the NBA is easier said than done. There’s a lot of logistics and contracts to deal with,” Colangelo said. “Same for the Olympics. You have to assume it will be around the same dates.”
If NBA players are prevented from playing in the Olympics, it should be noted that Team USA uses a team of lesser talents to qualify for the FIBA World Cup. Jeff Van Gundy has coached that team in recent years, and it is built mostly around younger players trying to break into the league. Some, such as Chris Chiozza of the Brooklyn Nets, have successfully done so. While such a roster wouldn’t hold up against international powers at full strength, it should be noted that most of the best international teams also employ, and are usually led by, NBA players. Team USA may be weakened, but their competition would be as well.
Still, in an ideal scenario, Popovich is able to lead a Team USA roster that is consistent in talent with the groups that have won the past three gold medals in basketball. The American roster is usually comprised of the best the NBA has to offer, and until it isn’t, that should be the assumption moving forward.
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