FIBA postpones final Olympics qualifiers due to coronavirus, which could end up impacting the NBA

FIBA officially postponed the final four qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics to next summer on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, a move that could significantly interfere with the NBA.

The Olympics were initially scheduled to take place this summer in Tokyo, though they were postponed earlier this year to start on July 23, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic

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The final four qualifying tournaments will now take place from June 29 through July 4, 2021, at their initial host countries — Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia. Eight teams have already earned their spots in the 12-country tournament for the Olympics: Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia and the United States. Japan earned a spot automatically as the host nation, while the other seven earned their spots at the Basketball World Cup. 

Twenty-four countries are still looking to earn a spot in the games, including Greece, Brazil, Italy, China, Serbia, Canada and Germany, among others.  

“Representing your country is one of the greatest honors in sport,” Canada Basketball President and CEO Glen Grunwald said, via the Associated Press. “I know our players will see the challenge ahead of them next summer as one small opportunity to recognize the daily sacrifices of all the frontline workers who are keeping our country safe and operating during this pandemic.”

How could this impact the NBA?

The NBA suspended operations on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and still has no set plans to resume the 2019-20 season. The league is still contemplating several different options.

Should the league resume play in some form, it could significantly impact the start of next season — an idea to start the season in December is already being considered, especially if the current season doesn’t wrap up until later this summer. 

If the start of the 2020-21 season is delayed by a few months, then the postseason would be delayed on the back end of the season as well. If international players — like Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks or Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, for example — are in the midst of a playoff run, a qualifying tournament for the Olympics with their home countries of Greece and Serbia, respectively, would be a direct conflict. 

It’s unclear how both FIBA and the NBA would handle such a scenario. The NBA, per the Associated Press, has never had a Finals go later than June 25, and doesn’t normally stop play for international qualifying windows. 

Granted, this is still a ways off and there is a lot to be figured out still. There were more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday night, according to The New York Times, and nearly 86,000 deaths attributed to it. The future of the NBA is still unclear, and some organizers are even doubting that the Olympics will be able to be held next summer, too. 

The longer the NBA waits to officially resume the current season or decide about the start of next season, however, the more likely it is to be impacted by qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics.

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