The NBA playoffs swept into the present tense over the weekend on a massive surprise for the league and a tremendous opportunity for Team USA.
The Golden State Warriors were not expected to go 0-2 in the Play-In Tournament and miss the postseason, but that’s what happened, leaving Stephen Curry and Draymond Green open to commit to playing for the Americans at the Tokyo Olympics.
USA Basketball needs stars, and the earlier they’re available, the better. On the heels of the Warriors’ season-ending loss at home to Memphis, Curry, Zion Williamson of the Pelicans, and Zach LaVine of the Bulls are the three All-Stars not in the playoffs out of the 57 NBA players identified as possibilities for Tokyo.
But Curry’s answer for whether or not he’s in was an ominous one for Team USA and NBC, which would prefer the Olympic basketball tournament be a summer run of the best the NBA has to offer.
“It’s still kind of a quick turnaround, no matter how you look at it, considering we’ve been grinding every day, every other day for the last five months, six months almost, since last November,” Curry said.
Finding 12 players who can go to Japan and repeat as Gold medalists could prove a daunting task for Team USA, for a host of reasons.
This has been the strangest, most difficult season to manage in NBA history, coming off the shortest offseason the league has ever seen. All involved are exhausted by the condensed schedule and COVID-19 protocols that added a tremendous amount of stress and isolation. Seventy-two games, five months, countless tests, quarantines, and in many cases, illnesses, has everyone worn out, as Curry mentioned. And that’s on top of the bubble experience from last season that stretched into October.
The NBA playoffs are going to run right up until the opening ceremony in Tokyo, which is July 23, and Team USA’s training camp is going to run parallel to the Finals — both of which start in early July. American officials are counting on anyone in the Finals being out for the Olympics, and players on the two teams that lose in conference finals would be pushing it.