London: More than 85 per cent of NBA players will be available for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification tournaments, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) secretary general Andreas Zagklis has said.
Speaking at an online roundtable interview on Wednesday, Zagklis said he also believed that top NBA players would have enough motivation to compete at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games next year, reports Xinhua news agency.
“It’s clear from the feedback we have received from our players around the world, including NBA players that they consider the Olympic Games as a highlight of their careers. So the motivation is there,” said Zagklis.
The Covid-19 pandemic not only forced the Olympic Games to be postponed by a year, but also affected the global schedules of all sports.
FIBA has confirmed that the men’s Olympic qualifiers will take place from June 29 to July 4 in 2021, one week later than originally planned. The NBA then decided to play a shortened season with 10 games fewer than usual in the regular season, with the playoffs to be held between May 22 and July 22 next year.
“I think there is a great understanding in what it means for the NBA and its players to play in the Olympics,” said Zagklis. “The Players Association and the owners took the decision to play a shortened season which would mean 26 out of 30 teams will have finished by (the Olympic qualifiers) and all the teams will have finished in time for the Olympic Games.”
“I believe that this means we will have, in the Olympic qualifiers, more than 85 per cent of NBA players available,” said the Greek.
The FIBA 2019 Basketball World Cup saw Argentina, Australia, France, Spain, Iran, Nigeria and the United States qualify directly for the Tokyo Olympics, with Japan receiving automatic qualification as hosts.
The four remaining places in the 12-team Olympic tournament are reserved for the winners of each of the four qualifying tournaments, to be played in Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia.
China will play in the Canada-based tournament, along with Canada, Greece, Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey.