NBA suspension could affect OKC Thunder players National Team plans

Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

Several OKC Thunder players expected to play in wild card tournaments to land berths to the Olympics but the suspension could affect those plans.

Last summer both Team U.S.A. and Team Canada suffered when many NBA stars elected not to play for their national teams. The American squad squeaked by with a seventh-place finish at the FIBA tournament which cemented their berth at the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, Team Canada wasn’t as fortunate as players like OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander opted out.

In fairness, SGA wasn’t the only one to opt-out. Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray had every intention on playing but an injury sidelined him. Ditto for numerous other Canadians who had either just been drafted as rookies such as Shai’s cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker by the New Orleans Pelicans and Brandon Clarke with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Rookie RJ Barrett has natural ties to Team Canada having played with the under 17 teams. His father Rowan Barrett Senior, is the General Manager of Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team program. But, he also suffered an ankle injury which held him out of the competition.

Factor in the Canadian Team ended up in what was called the “Death Group” at the FIBA Tournament which featured the sixth-ranked Team Lithuania, as well as another powerhouse squad Team Australia and the improving Team Senegal.

With only Cory Joseph and Khem Birch available to bolster the team with NBA talent, it made for a tough task. The national team hired Raptors Nick Nurse as their coach but he had a makeshift unit to work with which ultimately resulted in them missing out on advancing far enough to land the Olympic berth.

At the start of this season, Canadians in the NBA came out in full force stating they would be on board this summer. Joining OKC Thunder star Gilgeous-Alexander and his cousin, were Dillon Brooks, Barrett, and Murray who committed to being all-in for Team Canada. Perennial participants Kelly Oubre, Cory Joseph, and Tristan Thompson are all likely to be on board as well. In fact, the only Canadian star who hasn’t committed is Andrew Wiggins after he had a disagreement with former Canadian team Head Coach Jay Triano.

A positive turn of events led to Canada being awarded one of the four wild card FIBA tournaments which would determine the final four countries who would earn an Olympic berth.

Other OKC Thunder players also played this past summer including Italy’s Danilo Gallinari and Germany’s Dennis Schroder. Both are arguably the best players on their teams. Like SGA they were expected to participate in the wild card tournaments which would determine the final four Olympic seeds.

Other OKC Thunder players who could be involved are Canadian Luguentz Dort (especially after his recent ascent) and even Steven Adams might elect to participate for his native New Zealand club.

The four wild card tournament locations and participants:

Four countries will host 24 national teams with the winner claiming one of the four remaining Olympic berths. The date of the tournaments was set for June 23rd to June 28th.

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Czech Republic


  • Split, Croatia
    • Germany
    • Russia
    • Mexico
    • Croatia
    • Tunisia
    • Brazil
  • Kaunas, Lithuania
    • Lithuania
    • South Korea
    •  Venezuela
    • Poland
    • Slovenia
    • Angola
  • Belgrade, Serbia
    • Serbia
    • Dominican Republic
    • New Zealand
    • Puerto Rico
    • Italy
    • Senegal
  • How suspension affects the tournaments:

    The immediate thought here  – is what happens now that the season is suspended? For example, if the league returns to action at the earliest possible date of April 13th (which is unlikely). There are a number of ways the association could proceed.

    The league might elect to play out those 15 – 19 games which would take a month and push the playoffs to a mid-May launch.  Something the league might do is take less time between games in the first round which they historically don’t do. It’s typical for the NBA to have a few days between games particularly in round one. Still, if a series went the duration those seven games would still require 14 days to play.

    If we extrapolate that through four rounds with the potential for four series going seven games that’s a minimum of two months. Granted, if teams finished series sooner that date could be shorter or manipulated based on completion dates.

    Yet, if the playoffs ran the full gamut even without extra days off in between and also played out the rest of the season it could mean an additional period of three months. Again, the earliest start date of mid-April would find the NBA Finals running potentially until mid-July. Please note – this is all speculation and is NOT in cement because we’re dealing with so many uncertainties and speculation.

    Depending on how far the Thunder got in the postseason it would affect the players’ ability to participate in the tournaments above. Likewise, another deep run by the Raptors could mean they won’t have their Head Coach.

    The bottom line is the suspension will affect more than just the NBA season and depending on what happens it could also affect whether the Olympics get postponed or these tournaments get shifted to allow for the full participation of NBA talents.

    Obviously, the best case scenario would find the NBA returning as close to the 30 days initially outlined, the OKC Thunder having a deep playoff run and getting to witness each of the above players participating in the wild card tourneys.

    Moreover, other than Italy and New Zealand being in the same tourney there is the potential for most of the OKC Thunder players outlined to end up playing in Toyko. For now, we wait to see what happens and keep a positive frame of mind.

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    Wishing everyone good health and safety.