According to various reports, including from The New York Times and The Sunday Times of the United Kingdom, there is internal chatter within the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee that the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will not happen in July 2021. The games were previously delayed one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If the Olympics are cancelled, they would have impacts on the Washington Wizards and Mystics, though in different ways. We’ll go over that later.
Why could the Olympics be cancelled?
If the Olympics are cancelled, it’s because the coronavirus pandemic is still out of control in much of the world. Though it appears that the virus is more manageable in the summer than the winter, there are still various competitions that must be held to finalize competitors’ spots which can further complicate things.
The good news about the pandemic is that there are vaccines that will help slow down the spread. But it will take over a year for them to reach most of the global population. Factories can only produce so much vaccine, even if governments are mandating that companies increase the supply.
It is also possible, if not likely that vaccines are given to most Americans, East Asians and Europeans this year. But developing countries in Latin America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia may be among the last to get them because many of these nations are poorer than their American, East Asian and European counterparts.
How could an Olympic cancellation affect the Wizards?
For the Wizards on a player-by-player level, there is one player who will almost definitely participate in the Games: Rui Hachimura. He is one of Japan’s most recognizable athletes and the loss of the Olympic Games would be a hit to his morale as well as his country’s.
Besides Hachimura, the Wizards don’t have many realistic candidates to make a national team.
Bradley Beal is the one American player who could be on the USA Basketball men’s national team this summer. Given that the current NBA season is scheduled to finish by July 22, one day before the Olympics start on July 23, Beal may have a better-than-average chance to make the American team because the Wizards aren’t a title contender.
Moritz Wagner and Issac Bonga are German and their country made the men’s basketball Olympic qualifiers which will happen in June, but they aren’t locks to play for Germany. Since Latvia and Israel didn’t make the Olympicqualifiers, Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija can only watch the Olympics from their TV sets.
From a team-level, the Wizards may have more games to play in the second half of the season, especially if the Olympics are cancelled. They could have to play up to 41 games in 67 days for the second half of the season if the schedule sticks to the current timeframe and if no games are axed from the schedule. That would be too much for any NBA team to take obviously.
But if the season is pushed back to August with the Olympics out of the picture, Washington could realistically play these games without too many back-to-backs if the Finals ended in August or even September.
How could an Olympic cancellation affect the Mystics?
The WNBA season has a one-month break in Olympic seasons so if the games were cancelled, the break wouldn’t happen either. It’s difficult to say right now how the W will play this season.
At the player-level, Leilani Mitchell plays for Australia internationally (though she is American-born and a U.S. citizen because of that) and should be an easy selection for the Opals. If the Olympics were cancelled, she won’t miss any games in the first half of the season to train with Australia.
In addition, Elena Delle Donne, who is one of the USA Basketball women’s national team’s core players, would presumably make the team with flying colors. Ariel Atkins also played for the team last year in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament but she still likely faces an uphill climb to make the final squad due to the talent on the team already.
Emma Meesseman plays for Belgium and is their top player. The 2020 Olympic appearance is Belgium’s first in national history, largely due to her heroics in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, so not playing in the Olympics this summer would be very hard to take.
Still, if the Olympics were cancelled, it could increase Meesseman’s chances of playing for the Mystics (or any WNBA team) this season. After all, she is an unrestricted free agent.
But if the Olympics are cancelled, that’s also not a guarantee that Women’s EuroBasket will also be cancelled in mid-June. So if Meesseman plays in the WNBA this season, she would miss some time anyway for EuroBasket if it happens.
At a team-level, I think an Olympic cancellation could fire up enough Mystics players, like Mitchell, Delle Donne, Atkins and in particular Meesseman, to team up again and make one more run at a WNBA championship.