SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Golden State Warriors stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green’s hopes of reuniting on the USA Olympic basketball team after an injury-ravaged NBA regular season were placed on hold Tuesday as Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games until 2021 because of the coronavirus.
Since the team’s epic run to five straight NBA Finals, Thompson has been sidelined for this entire season recovering from ACL surgery. Curry has missed most of the current season after undergoing two surgeries for a broken hand and Green has missed several games with a variety of nagging injuries.
Without that core, the team has fallen to the worst record in the NBA at the time the season was suspended because of the coronavirus.
Head coach Steve Kerr was also an assistant to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popvich on the Olympic coaching staff. During a conference call following the NBA season suspension, Kerr said there had been an uncertainty ever since the coronavirus outbreak began.
“Everything’s just up in the air,” Kerr said. “There’s no sense of whether things are going to be delayed or anything. We’re all kind of wondering what’s going to happen and so is the rest of the world.”
Curry, Thompson and Green were among the 44 NBA stars selected to compete for a berth on the squad in Tokyo. Both Green and Thompson were on the Olympic squad which won a gold medal at the 2016 Games.
Earlier this season, Curry — who chose to bypass the selection process in 2016 — left little doubt that he wanted a slot on the last Olympic squad.
“That is the plan for sure,” the two-time NBA MVP said. “You know, obviously knock on wood, you don’t want any injuries or things to interfere… (I) definitely want to go. I’ve never been on the Olympic team. I’ve been on two World Cup championship gold medal teams, but the Olympics is the experience I want.”
US Olympic CEO Sara Hirshland sent out a letter to all potential Olympians Tuesday morning.
“Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment – my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020,” she wrote. “We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your teammates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC. With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.”
Aside from the Warriors trio, the delay also postponed the dreams of dozens of Olympic hopefuls living and training in the Bay Area.
Pleasanton’s Valerie Arioto and Salinas’ Monica Abbott had earned spots on the U.S. Olympic softball team with San Jose’s Keilani Ricketts given a reserve role.
Walnut Creek’s Melissa Seidenmann, Danville’s Maggie Steffens, San Anselmo’s Dyklan Woodhead, Tyler Abramson and Dan Holland from Orinda and Jack Turner from Fremont were all in the running for spots on the men’s and women’s water polo teams.
You could feel it coming but it doesn’t mean it’s any less of a shock. 🥺
— Monica Abbott (@monicaabbott) March 24, 2020
Thank you for your leadership in this. Couldn’t agree more – @TeamUSA will rise to this challenge, with resilience and inspiration, together as one. And the world as one. Grateful for all those who are keeping this world safe and healthy, you let this dream live on in 2021. https://t.co/8EutQPHbHI
— Maggie Steffens (@maggiesteffens) March 24, 2020
Gerek Meinhardt and Alesander Massialas, both from San Francisco, were hoping to bring home another team medal this year after winning bronze together in the Rio games in 2016. Alex Massialas also won an individual silver medal.
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As an athlete, I was extremely excited to compete this summer. Disappointed that I won't be able to go out and fence in the Olympics in 2020, but I'm relieved that the IOC is putting global health first. . Extraordinary times for extraordinary measures. All we can do now is keep looking forward. We'll be ready when the time comes
Alex’s father and U.S. Olympic Foil Coach Greg Massialas reminded KPIX that the spotlight is only on these athletes for a short amount of time, but competing in the Olympic Games is the culmination of a life’s work of commitment and sacrifice.
Hours after learning Tokyo 2020 has become Tokyo 2021, Massialas shared what was going through his mind.
“In some ways it’s difficult,” said Massialas. “In some ways, I’m actually kind of relieved that there’s at least a decision. Because the indecision is the hardest thing.”
As a three-time Olympian himself, Massialas knows the level of dedication the athletes put into their sport every single day. And for many, that might mean putting the rest of their lives on hold longer than anticipated.
Greg Massialas said the goal of bringing home as many gold medals as possible won’t change between now and 2021.
“It’s really a difficult situation for them to deal with,” he said. “But I think it’s something that everyone will sort of have to make adjustments and see how we can best make of this situation. Kind of make lemonade out of lemons.”
Table table tennis stars Kanak Jha, from Milpitas, Nikhil Kumar from San Jose, Lily Xhang from Palo Alto and Xin Zhou from Milpitas were also in the running for a berth.
There were dozens of other hopefuls scattered across the 10 Bay Area counties including swimmers Abbey Weitzeil and Katie McLaughlin.
All those hopes were delayed when IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed “100%” to a proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Abe.
Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement “taking into consideration the current circumstances” and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform at their best and crowds can be safe and secure.
He added that he hoped to reschedule the Olympics as a proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic.
Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks.
Jackie Ward contributed to this story.