What Does Olympic Postponement Mean For The Utah Jazz?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After weeks of speculation, the International Olympic Committee officially postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021. The postponement marks the first time in Olympic history that the games were moved for any reason other than war, and the first time the games won’t be played as scheduled since 1944.
While the postponement will have an enormous impact on athletes across the globe, the Utah Jazz will feel the change within their own locker room.
As it stands, the Jazz have two players currently on the roster who were set to compete in the 2020 Olympics for their national teams. Rudy Gobert and the French National Team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by finishing third at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Likewise, Joe Ingles and Team Australia, also qualified by finishing fourth at the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Team USA has qualified for the Olympic games and two current Jazz players, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, have made the initial 44 man roster that will be trimmed to 12 by the time the final cuts are made.
Additionally, the Croatian National Team is one of the six teams vying to qualify for the games at the 2020 FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament which is set to be held in Croatia in late June. The fate of the tournament is likely in doubt and like the Olympic games, could be pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
First and foremost, Gobert and Ingles spots with their national teams are guaranteed as long as the players remain committed to the rosters. Gobert is the star of Team France and should be considered a lock to represent his country. Ingles should likewise be considered a lock to represent his country after playing for the Boomers in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and again helping Australia qualify for 2020 at the World Cup. Ingles will be 33 years old by the time the delayed games begin, which may signal the Jazz guards’ last chance to represent his national team on a global scale.
Croatia will have to edge Russia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, and Tunisia to qualify for the games, but playing in Split, one of the country’s largest cities should give the national team a home-court advantage. Bogdanovic’s Croatian team is the third highest-ranked team at the tournament behind Russia and Brazil, and the Jazz forward would be guaranteed to make the Olympic roster if his team can win the qualifying tournament.
The postponement of the games may have a more negative impact on both Conley and Mitchell in their bids to make the Team USA roster.
Conley was already a longshot to make the roster and was a bit of a surprise to make the 44 man finalist list. The Jazz guard will turn 33 years old by the time the delayed games start and is already considered on the back half of his career. As the Team USA basketball brain trust traditionally builds the roster with a mixture of the best active players in the country, surrounded by the most promising up and coming players who will be expected to carry the international torch in the next set of games. At this point in his career, Conley checks neither box and will be less likely to fit the longer the games are delayed.
Perhaps Mitchell’s best case to make the 2020 Team USA roster was his recent affiliation with the national team at the 2019 World Cup. Mitchell was the team’s second-leading scorer and assist man behind Kemba Walker.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said he’d recognize those who stuck with their commitment to the 2019 World Cup team as several of the nation’s top stars opted to skip the qualifying tournament. However, will that loyalty remain as critical to roster building the further the Olympics get from the 2019 tournament? Additionally, both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were members of the 2016 USA Olympic team but were questionable to suit up for the 2020 roster as they return from serious injuries. Pushing the games back an additional year should provide both players with a clean bill of health to compete for the roster.
If both players had been healthy heading into this summer’s games, they would have been considered near locks to make the roster.
Additionally, will other young players who didn’t make the initial 44 man roster get new consideration with another year of experience under their belts? Atlanta Hawks guard and Eastern Conference All-Star starter Trae Young failed to make the roster but would seem like an ideal candidate to fill out the roster as a shooter, playmaker, and future torchbearer for the roster.
Rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant appear to be on track for terrific NBA careers. Does it make sense to hold them off of a revamped 44 man roster with another season to prove their abilities at the NBA level?
Mitchell will have an additional season to prove himself among the league’s best young players, and having competed with the 2019 National team while continuing to improve his status by making his All-Star debut this season, he remains a serious contender to make the final roster.
The 2020 Olympic games have been delayed, and while it likely won’t impact the Jazz international players, it may have major implications for the team’s domestic stars. With an additional year to wait for the Olympics games, and a breadth of young players coming up through the American ranks, Mitchell’s path to represent Utah, and the country with Team USA might have gotten significantly more difficult, while the ticking clock may run out on Conley.
Jazz Notes Podcast
The International Olympics Committee announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been pushed back to the summer of 2021.
With Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Bojan Bogdanovic all hoping to represent their countries at the Olympics, what does the change mean for the Utah Jazz?
Ben Anderson and Sarah Todd discuss the impact of the Olympics on the Jazz, and what it means for the NBA this summer.
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