Gregg Popovich knows filling U.S. Olympic men’s basketball roster may be a challenge

Game 7 of the 2021 NBA Finals would now be played on July 22.

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo would now be the next day.

And when he was presented with this potential scheduling problem, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich – who will coach the United States basketball national team at the next Olympics – came up with a very quick, very lighthearted solution.

“I don’t think we’ll let the final go seven games,” said Popovich.

Jokes aside, Popovich knows that the NBA schedule and how it gets very close to the start of the re-scheduled Games in Tokyo will be a challenge for USA Basketball to navigate next year in choosing the 12 players will try to win a fourth consecutive Olympic men’s. Golden medal.

Popovich becomes the head coach of the Olympic team for the first time, succeeding Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“The Olympics are always on my mind, just as Coach K told me it would be,” Popovich said on Tuesday. ‘You can’t get rid of it. So this scenario, as it stands now, seems problematic in the sense that organizing things and figuring out who will join the team has yet to be determined. “

There is a plan. As with everything else in a coronavirus world, it’s preliminary, but there is a plan.

The pool of finalists – if the previous form is right, it will be about 40 or 50 names – will be revealed by USA Basketball sometime in early 2021, the first step in what Americans hope is a somewhat normal sequence of events leading up to the Tokyo Games.

The 2016 Olympic team was chosen about six weeks before the start of the Rio Games, allowing time for a training camp and exhibitions before heading to Brazil. If the same timetable applies next year – and assuming the NBA schedule doesn’t change along the way – the US Olympic team could be selected in mid to late June, around the end of the second round of the NBA playoffs.

“We know there are so many variables,” said Sean Ford, president of the USA Basketball national men’s team. “We are going to talk to all possible organizations to try to find a way to include as many NBA players as possible in our final roster.”

Numerous elite NBA players such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Devin Booker, James Harden and more all said they were interested in playing the Tokyo Games during the past season. Of course, that was months before the coronavirus hit and so much changed.

Complexity isn’t just limited to US players.

Many international players – such as Milwaukee’s two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece and Denver’s Nikola Jokic of Serbia – have said they would like to play, but their countries have yet to qualify next summer to go to Tokyo and those qualifying rounds will take place. during the NBA playoffs. Toronto coach Nick Nurse is scheduled to coach Canada in his efforts to qualify; he too could face a scheduling conflict if the Raptors go deep into the playoffs again.

Popovich sounded convinced that the US is more than capable of figuring things out.

“The timing makes everything difficult,” said Popovich. “And it will require real soul research and out-of-the-box thinking to assemble the best team possible.”