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Klay Thompson’s injury raises big-picture thoughts about U.S. Olympic roster

Klay Thompson

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Klay Thompson #11 of United States stands on the court during the Men’s Priliminary Round between the United States and Venezuela on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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It appears Klay Thompson will not return to the Olympics next summer, given he suffered a season-ending right Achilles tear and that the NBA season -- the playoffs to be specific -- is set to end within a week of the Opening Ceremony.

The U.S. Olympic team of 12 players can navigate the absence of the sharp-shooting guard who started six of eight games in Rio. It has other potential weapons there, namely James Harden.

But the question, ahead of the NBA regular season start on Dec. 22, is how many players will miss the Games not because of injury, but because of timing?

The NBA Finals could end as late as July 22, the day before the Opening Ceremony.

Fran Fraschilla, a 2016 NBC Olympics men’s basketball analyst, said officials anticipate not having players available for the Olympics from the two teams in the NBA Finals. And a high likelihood that they won’t have players from conference finals teams.

USA Basketball has not ruled out any players yet, saying that the NBA schedule will allow for most to be available for the Olympics.

Last season, the Lakers beat the Heat in a finals featuring potential U.S. Olympians LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Further, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker lost in the conference finals.

Complicating matters: The deadline for nations to submit Olympic teams is July 5, though there is a late athlete replacement policy that extends closer to the start of competition. This usually comes into play for injuries.

There’s also this: USA Basketball plans to hold a player training camp in early July, also during the NBA playoffs. It hasn’t said whether camp participation will be mandatory for Olympic participation.

And what if the San Antonio Spurs make a deep playoff run next summer? Their coach, Gregg Popovich, is the Olympic head coach.

The U.S. finished seventh at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, its worst-ever senior national team tournament result. That roster included two reigning NBA All-Stars and one player with Olympic experience (Harrison Barnes). After that failure, some NBA stars who didn’t suit up for the World Cup declared intent to play at the Olympics.

USA Basketball named 44 finalists for its 12-man Olympic team on Feb. 10, though in the past players have either withdrawn or been added to the pool as the Games approached.

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