The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan are expected to be a big event for the sport of basketball, and even for the Washington Wizards and Mystics.
In basketball, we can expect many NBA and WNBA stars represent their countries, whether in traditional 5x5 or the new 3x3 format. And for the teams here in D.C., we have some guaranteed participants, barring injury.
Rui Hachimura will represent the Wizards on Japan’s men’s team. He will be one of the most notable hosts during these games. Emma Meesseman will represent the Mystics while playing for the Belgium women’s national team. It’s the first time Belgium is going to the Olympics in basketball, so it’s a big deal for her.
Of course, several of the Wizards and Mystics’ American players still have a shot to make the final teams representing Team USA. The Mystics are most likely getting represented with 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, though Ariel Atkins is under consideration as well. Natasha Cloud was under consideration to make the women’s 3x3 team but was cut last week at training camp in Chicago.
For the men, Bradley Beal is a finalist, but he’s probably a long shot to get an invitation to the team.
In general, I’m excited to watch Olympic basketball. But there’s a chance that the games won’t happen at all because of the coronavirus outbreak, which originiated in Wuhan, China. For Japan, the most notorious coronavirus incident so far occurred on a Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama where there were multiple deaths.
According to Stephen Wade of The Associated Press, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said a final decision on whether to host the games would have be made about three months before the games begin on July 24. That means, the decision has to be made by late April or early May at the absolute latest.
An Olympic cancellation due to a disease outbreak would be unprecedented, but it is possible. The last two Summer Olympics cancellations in 1940 and 1944 were due to World War II.
If the Olympics are cancelled, they would probably have differing effect on the two local teams. For the Wizards, it would be a disappointment not to see Hachimura represent his country, and improve D.C.’s NBA team’s worldwide profile and appeal.
However, the Wizards don’t play in the summer besides the Vegas Summer League, so it’s not as if an Olympics cancellation will make Hachimura demand a trade out of D.C. All indications are that he’s happy to be here.
The Mystics face a much different scenario because the Olympics will occur in the middle of the WNBA season. Meesseman is expected to miss about five games this summer because of the Olympics. A cancelled Olympics would mean she wouldn’t have to miss any Mystics contests, which could serve to improve the team’s record.
However, Meesseman is also on a one-year contract. And to be quite frank, it feels like this is going to be her last WNBA season. Missing out on the Olympics despite qualifying for it last February could be the “last straw” Meesseman needs to call it a career in America.
I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Shaï Mamou of Francophone Belgian basketball site Swish Swish concurs with many of my fears. And for the record, Mamou is French French, not a Francophone Belgian. So he says soixante-dix, not septante.
The Olympics are still months away, but I’m feeling anxious about whether the games can still go on. At the end of the day, I want to see as many Wizards and Mystics play in Tokyo and see a great basketball tournament this summer.
Of course, the most important thing is preventing a pandemic. Hopefully, world leaders and health officials can contain the coronavirus outbreak to save lives and ultimately allow the Olympics to safely proceed as planned.