Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) grudgingly agreed that the 2020 Olympics — set to start in Taiwan this July — would be postponed for a year until 2021. The IOC only went this far after several prominent countries had already announced a decision to back out of the Olympics regardless because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic scare.
Sadly for some of these athletes, this was their last chance for competitive glory. You are only in your prime for a small window of time and for some older athletes even the delay of a single year could kill those dreams.
Bringing this story closer to home, the one-year delay could also kill Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker’s hopes of making the 12-man United States men’s basketball national team. This summer, Booker had a chance to make the final Team USA roster because of injuries to luminaries like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson. By next summer, they should all be healthy again.
Who knows what will happen, of course. Will there be a rushed schedule to “finish” the 2019-20 season and a playoffs? Or will this season be cancelled? Over in China, who are 1-2 months “ahead” of the US, they still have not resumed competitive basketball despite their best efforts. They had hoped to restart on April 1, then April 15, and now maybe May. The danger is the threat of starting a new wave of COVID-19 without a vaccine in place.
By next July, will the best players have basically been playing 12 straight months with only a short offseason? As a player, can you truly commit to what adds up to 23 straight months of basketball (19-20 finish, 20-21 season, Olympics, 21-22 season)?
So we don’t know who will play in 2021 for Team USA, but we know that Booker will almost certainly have more competition for final roster spot than he would have had this year.
Then we have to consider Suns starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who has two more seasons ahead of him on his Suns contract.
Rubio had a great start to this season, and then was great again after the All-Star break, but was really struggling to find energy in the middle. Logic dictates that the 29-year-old Rubio, who has been playing international ball since he was 15 and back-to-backing NBA and international competitions the past eight years, can’t keep up the high energy for 82 straight games anymore, especially when he spends whole summers playing for the Spanish National Team.
Maybe with a summer off, and no Olympics, Rubio will return strong and consistent for the entire 2020-21 NBA season, and that’s a very good thing for the Suns.
When Rubio is right, the Suns’ offense is very good. But when he struggles or misses games, the Suns sometimes don’t look any better than prior years where they nestled themselves into the bottom of the league.
No one knows that’s going to happen over the next 12 months, but what comes of the 2019-20 season is not all that matters for NBA fans and Suns fans, with the Olympics in play as well.