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How will the NBA accommodate the Olympics in future years?

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It appears that future NBA seasons will start around Christmastime and end sometime during the summer. This will overlap the timeframe when the Olympics would happen.

USA v Japan: Group E - FIBA World Cup 2019
Rui Hachimura dribbles the ball during the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The NBA is starting to ramp up discussions about the possibility of resuming the 2019-20 NBA season in July. Assuming the season ends in August or September, that poses an interesting question on how things will look in future years, starting with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo that will be delayed a year to 2021 due to the coronavirus.

The NBA has thought about starting future seasons in late December and ending the season around August, essentially pushing the season a couple months back. In some ways, this makes sense. The league doesn’t seem to get too much buzz until Christmas. And during the summer, the NBA Playoffs wouldn’t be interfering with the MLB Playoffs, the MLS Playoffs. It will overlap their regular seasons, however.

The NBA Playoffs will overlap the WNBA regular season more than it does right now. That could hurt some WNBA teams’ interest if they play in the same city as an NBA team that goes to the Conference Finals or Finals.

Those logistics, however, aren’t as pressing as summer obligations that involve NBA players. Next year’s Olympic men’s basketball tournament is expected to include NBA players from all 12 countries that participate, including Japan, where Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura will play a large role and the United States, where most players are from. NBA players have generally been very enthusiastic about playing in the Olympics.

But if NBA seasons end in August, the Olympics will directly conflict with the NBA Playoffs or Finals. What should the NBA do then? So far, there don’t seem to be many clear answers since the league still has the 2019-20 season to resolve.

One possible path is for the NBA to institute an Olympic break like the WNBA does during these years, assuming the league will still let players play every time. The weird part about an NBA Olympic break, however, is that this would happen during the playoffs. The WNBA’s Olympic breaks are during the regular season. Alternatively, Olympic NBA seasons could start a little earlier so the playoffs wouldn’t overlap with the Games.

Another option is that the NBA could restrict players on Finals teams from playing in the Olympics. That would be difficult, however, because the league has many non-American players, some of whom would be representing Olympic-bound teams.

Finally, it’s always possible that the NBA could simply restrict its players from participating in the Olympics altogether. Or the NBA could work with FIBA and the International Olympic Committee to find some other arrangement, like making the tournament only for U-23 teams. That has been floated around in recent years.

Do you think the NBA should restrict players from participating in the Olympics now that future seasons could overlap with the games? Let us know in the comments below.