USA Basketball is in the planning stages of creating a pre-Olympic bubble in Las Vegas for Team USA, Australia and Spain to train and play exhibition games against one another before leaving for Tokyo, managing director Jerry Colangelo told ESPN.
With NBA players expected to make up the core of all three teams and the league’s playoffs scheduled to take place from May 22 to July 22, this concept would create an environment where players can limit travel and possible exposure to COVID-19 before going to Japan. Team USA is tentatively planning to open training camp the week of July 4, while the NBA playoffs are ongoing.
“On the surface it makes a lot of sense,” Colangelo said. “We have to be flexible.”
Spain, the reigning World Cup champions, have five current NBA players who have played on the national team in the past: Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Juancho Hernangomez and Willy Hernangomez. The Australians named their Olympic roster pool this week, and it has 10 current NBA players, including Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and Matisse Thybulle.
Also in the name of flexibility, Colangelo said USA Basketball has petitioned the U.S. Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee and FIBA, which runs the Olympic basketball tournament, to change the rules for when rosters for the Games must be submitted. Usually, the rosters must be set several weeks in advance, but with the NBA playoffs running until three days before Team USA is scheduled for its first Olympic game, Colangelo is calling for changes.
Team USA has asked to allow roster changes even during the Olympics as players may fly over late and join teams, Colangelo said. He is waiting to hear back from the governing bodies on the matter.
“These are not normal times. Rosters by a certain date doesn’t make any sense,” Colangelo said. “What we’re seeking is flexibility to substitute players very late and to get the best players on the court. It doesn’t just apply to us but for all the countries.”
On Wednesday, the IOC released its first set of Games parameters, which said athletes were not required to be vaccinated or to quarantine on arrival but that they would have to undergo testing before embarking and upon arrival in Japan.