The decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games was made not a moment too soon. Certainly, its effect on athletes who hitherto looked forward to the Olympics being held in July and trained accordingly cannot be underestimated. For countless who fixed their calendars so they could be in peak form for the quadrennial spectacle, the delay throws a monkey wrench on their bids for glory. The ideal would have been to push through with it, but the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and the need for containment made it untenable. And because lives were at stake, there was simply no choice but to move it back a year.
For USA Basketball, the development should enable it to stick to its plan to tap the best of the best in defense of the United States’ Olympic title. Had the show gone on as originally scheduled, it would likely have been forced to turn to players not currently in the National Basketball Association for the purpose. Managing director Jerry Colangelo was, in fact, preparing for the eventuality given contractual obligations of his preferred stalwarts. Instead, he’s looking ahead with optimism — to Games that can be held absent any fear of the virus and with marquee names on tap.
The assumption that the Olympics will still be scheduled in summer is, of course, a good one. That said, it can be moved earlier or later, in which case conflicts enter the equation. No doubt, USA Basketball will keep coordinating with the IOC and the NBA to minimize, if not altogether eradicate, obstacles to the show going on as finely as it can. And then there is the not insignificant factor of fatigue and age to contend with. Players will be a year older by then — not a problem for most, but certainly cause for pause to the likes of LeBron James, 35, and presumably just out of a prolonged run with the Lakers. Father Time never loses, not even to the extraordinarily durable; the circumstances may yet compel him to rethink his plans to claim a third gold.
In any case, Colangelo’s prepared, not to mention armed with the commitment of head coach Gregg Popovich. It was seemingly far from a slam dunk; he’s about to turn 72 and in danger of missing the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1998. On the other hand, the very pride that propelled him to succeed invariably spurred him to stay in the hot seat, if for no other reason than to erase the stigma of Team USA’s seventh-place finish in the FIBA World Cup last year from his resume. And, all other things being equal, there’s no better call to arms for players than his continued participation. They’ll go to war for him, they’ll defend the crown for him, and darned if mankind doesn’t win in the process.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.