With the NBA expecting the 2020-21 season to start this upcoming January at the earliest, the league’s players would likely not participate in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, commissioner Adam Silver said on NBATV (via NBC Sports):
“I think it’s unlikely, at the end of the day, that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics. Because, as you know, it’s not just a function of stopping for the period in which they are competing over in Tokyo. But they require training camp, and then they require rest afterwards.”
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the 2020 Olympics to be postponed, thus casting doubt on NBA players being able to participate. The Olympics are set for a July 23, 2021, so an NBA season that starts in January or later would require an indefinite postponement.
While Team USA would be the most severely affected without the NBA’s top players available, international teams would also feel it as the league’s best international talents would be unavailable.
“There are so many incredible players, beginning with the USA team, we’ll be able to field a very competitive team. I am a bit worried about some of the international teams, because, as you know, some of their stars play in our league, and their absence would make a huge difference for those national teams.”