SAITAMA, Japan (AP) – Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum are aiming for gold, although they can’t forget the green.
Basketball and business are about to merge in a way that players have never known. The quarter-finals of the men’s Olympic tournament come on the same day the free agency opens in the NBA.
While stars like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry will focus on their future, some players are trying to keep an eye on the present.
This includes Batum, who doesn’t have a contract for next season but insists his only concern is his next game.
“It’s not easy, I mean, from the outside, but for me it’s pretty easy,” Batum said. “I know what to focus on. “
He said this is the elimination game France will play against Italy. The French are one of the seeds in the men’s basketball quarterfinals at the Tokyo Games, with a victory over the United States the culmination of their 3-0 start.
Yet when the four quarter-final games are played Tuesday in Japan, it will be Monday night back in the United States. This is when players and teams can start negotiating contracts.
Fournier, who finished last season with the Boston Celtics, is in a position to win the biggest contract he’ll ever get. His stock likely skyrocketed at Saitama, where he scored 28 points in the win on the United States
Some players wait a lifetime for the opportunity to cash in like he’s about to do.
France has also waited a lifetime to win an Olympic gold medal.
Fournier has to juggle all of this at the same time.
“It’s so unfortunate that I’m going to have to give an answer on the day of the quarter-final,” he said. “I hope the teams are going to be nice and that they can understand that I don’t want to rush anything and at least I can wait until the end of the game.”
The NBA free agency normally opens on June 30, and contracts can be signed in early July, which helps sort out the issue – at least for the top players – ahead of national team games.
The coronavirus pandemic which has postponed the start of the season has forced the offseason to start just before the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
It was Friday morning in Japan when the NBA Draft was held. US coach Gregg Popovich of San Antonio and assistant Steve Kerr of Golden State have spent part of their days off on the phone with their teams.
US forward Draymond Green had risen with the sun to tell Golden State general manager Bob Myers that he wanted the Warriors to use their No.7 and 14 picks on Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
“Draymond, I spoke at 4 a.m. in Tokyo, 5 a.m., 6 a.m.,” Myers told reporters. “While we were picking, he texted me after the third or fourth choice and he said ‘Kuminga.’ And I said, ‘We’ll see if he’s there.’ So he’s happy.
“And then, around the ninth pick, he said, ‘Moody.’ And I said, ‘I don’t think he’s going to be there.’ And I didn’t even give him those names. So he gave me a big boost.
The Australians also got up early. They are a tight-knit group and wanted to celebrate Josh Giddey’s success. an 18-year-old caught with the No. 6 pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Giddey had attended a camp with Australia before the Games.
But for Australian Joe Ingles, that peak was followed by the trough of his Utah Jazz teammate Derrick Favors.
“It’s like a family away from your family so I have a great relationship with Fav and I know his kids and he knows my kids and stuff like that,” Ingles said. “So he’s more than just a teammate, he’s a very good friend. So obviously it sucks to see a close friend get traded, but I also think on the other hand we get the business of that. “
Ricky Rubio remembered it again, with the Minnesota Timberwolves accepting an yet to be finalized trade from the point guard to Cleveland while playing for Spain.
Usually that would be separate from basketball. Many players would not even consider competing in the Olympics until free agency is settled, knowing that an injury could jeopardize their chances of reaching a life-changing deal.
But Patty Mills is playing for Australia, indifferent to her NBA future while trying to lead her country to their first Olympic men’s basketball medal.
“It’s a life of work in a few weeks,” said the Spurs goalkeeper. “I make sure there are no distractions for me or my teammates.”
Same with Batum, which Los Angeles Clippers president Lawrence Frank has said the team are hoping to re-sign. The forward said it was left to his agent.
“I have to make sure my team and I are ready for the next game because it’s a big game and the rest will be done on its own,” said Batum, the French captain.
He’s already had his jackpot, signing a $ 120 million contract five years ago in Charlotte.
Now it could be Fournier’s turn for the big bucks, over $ 10 million a season. Some players are said to be counting the money already.
He’s in it right now for gold.
“It’s easy not even to think about it because, I mean, I have a quarterfinal at the Olympics,” Fournier said. “It’s huge. It’s a big moment in my career. I’m going to take the opportunity and make the most of it.
This week, maybe on and off the pitch.
AP Basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
More AP: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports